Some may look at 2014 as a down year for Hip-Hop in comparison to what we received in 2013 where the game’s legendary and hottest artists released critically acclaimed projects. For myself, I looked at 2014 as an open field for the up-and-comers and the currently buzzing artists to emerge and I believe that’s exactly what occurred. Overall, you may have had to take the good with the bad, but if you were able to discover the good, maybe you understand where I’m coming from. I know, I know, you probably expected so much more – plenty of Hip-Hop’s “gatekeepers” did as well and perhaps slept on a few gems of the underground. As the heavyweights kicked back and prepped for what’s been an incredible year for the culture in 2015, a 23-year-old (now 24) MC from Chicago, Mick Jenkins, took advantage of the opportunity to gain some spotlight last year and he shined indeed.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Quick back story: I’ll be one to admit that I had no clue who Mick Jenkins was until last year. I stood clueless as a friend of mine spoke highly of his craft and she immediately put me on to his debut release from 2013, Trees And Truths. The project was solid as a whole, but was I sold on him just yet? Not quite. A few days later, he put out a visual for “Jazz,” a cut from his soon-to-be-released mixtape, The Water[s], and I became intrigued with Mick Jenkins as an artist and a person. To make it short, The Water[s] soon came after, and, as I sat with it and listened, he gained a new fan. The understanding of Mick Jenkins that was lacking in Trees And Truths was uncovered with his outstanding 2014 effort.
The Water[s] was a full-on display of Mick’s growth as an artist. The lyrical content was always there, but other pieces such as songwriting, production, and the execution of the tape’s driven concept all improved leaps and bounds from his debut body of work. If you’ve thoroughly listened to both projects in their entirety, it’s not hard to tell that Mick Jenkins was beginning to come into his own with his sophomore mixtape. It obviously caught on as his status in the Hip-Hop community climbed higher and higher with the support of his day one fans and newcomers to the wave (see what I did there?), including myself. But, after two quality full-length releases, the question “will the next project exceed expectations or falter?” is worthy of discussion.
A year removed from a standout project and with more eyes on him now than ever before, Mick Jenkins decided to stray away from the album-worthy projects and broke down his musical palette with a shorter extension of the celebrated mixtape. Introducing folks to a different side of his artistry, he delivered his new EP: Wave[s].
The nine-track effort welcomes you to Mick Jenkins in a new light — a new sound. If you were expecting the same guy from Trees And Truths and The Water[s], there’s bit and pieces of him throughout the project, but also understand that every artist has to advance and grow with their music. In this case, you’ll be thoroughly pleased rather than disappointed. Mick has developed from what seemed to be a mellow, laid back shell and presents a bouncier, yet well-balanced, vibe and projects his vulnerability much clearer for 27 minutes.
The EP kicks off with a chilling spoken word — using sharp metaphors to address the ills of society, it soon leads into the hard-hitting and lyrical onslaught that is “Alchemy.” An interesting part of the record stands where Mick lets out some frustration towards the end of the track in saying, “They say I be talking about water too much/ You hear that?! (silence)/ That’s how many f*cks I could give/ Still I got love for a hater/ Would give up a rib.” The song would soon be followed by “Slumber,” a track filled with drums and the beautiful sounds of Donnie Trumpet and, well, his trumpet. If there had to be a choice between the first two records, “Slumber” would surely be the tone-setter of the project.
The sound which Mick Jenkins intended to accomplish is set between that point and the midsection of Wave[s]. That’s where you see the overall growth in his approach as an artist, and don’t be thrown off from Mick stepping outside of the box and testing his limits. By limits, I mean singing hooks with a more melodic touch than usual.
Featuring production from Lee Bannon, Kaytranada, and ThemPeople, Mick Jenkins’ skills aren’t too far out of pocket with the sound as others may try to do and miss the mark. Referring back to his melodic touch, he might not be the ideal singer but we’ve given so many people a pass due to the quality of the record, right? Songs like “Your Love” and “The Giver” have the potential to become hits and that’s something he hasn’t had with the previous two projects. And a personal favorite (a toss up against “Piano”), “40 Below,” has the feel of an Andre 3000 record that would take off immediately if it was in his possession. It says a lot to his improved ability as a songwriter and hopefully it won’t be long for people to notice the progress.
Overall, Wave[s] is an experiment leading up to Mick Jenkins’ debut album The Healing Component, but it’s an experiment that doesn’t fail. Is it perfect by any means? No, there’s still some tweaks to be made. But, don’t be fooled though, Mick Jenkins is reaching the plateau that he’s worked for years to catch as an artist. There’s no longer a limit as to what he can do musically and that’ll cause THC to be one of the albums to anticipate in 2016. Mick is on his way to stardom, and if there is starting point to stamp that claim, Wave[s] is a good place to begin.
Mick Jenkins switches it up with a new sound that'll flood the market when his debut album drops in 2016.8
Production score 8
Lyrics score 9
Composition score 8