An artist whose lyrics and delivery have absorbed fans across the world through the message of understanding the importance of water, Mick Jenkins has produced a collection of works dedicated to one of his strongest influences, Gil Scott-Heron.
Under his Free Nation label and Cinematic Music Group, Chicago’s arguably most under-appreciated rapper has released his second studio album, Pieces of a Man. The numbers have yet to come back on the 17-track record, but he set his own bar with his first release, The Healing Component, which peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s Top U.S. R&B/Hip-hop Albums chart in 2016.
The first standout track comes from the second production credit given to Black Milk with “Gwendolynn’s Apprehension.” After clever wordplay strutting through a discussion of cryptocurrency, an introductory verse comes with an educating transition to the enchanting chorus. “He don’t want to know/ could be a flower he don’t want to grow.” A less romanticized version of nature comes with a lesson.
Jenkins later makes a reference to pollination, giving him the confidence to grow. An obvious cliche, but an especially pretty flower is always too pretty to miss.
Kaytranada, one of the best music producers as of late, connects with Jenkins on a track at the same recorded length. The galactic loop of “Padded Locks” equipped with a dreary bass is an instrumental platter for the water bender.
Ghostface Killah, the most active Wu-Tang member going into November, gives Jenkins a strong closing feature. A blatant diss to the current presidential administration makes for a spicy sentiment, even from a legend in the industry like himself.
“Plain Clothes” is a smooth anthem for a successful recording artist, never being caught traveling by air in simple, bland clothing. “Never plain clothes, that just can’t fly.”
The album has another anthem for the connections between fathers and sons with the lone single “Understood.” The other Kaytranada masterpiece on the album brings a music video with grainy video cuts to banter on the grill and nostalgia of wrestling with your sibling.
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THEMpeople and Jenkins’ comrade Green Sllime provide a mature, lo-fi tune for the rapper to flow over. Mick offers those who care to come to his home, hang out or take a ride. From marijuana references to religious remarks, nostalgia gets pushed down by realistic advice. Jenkins has since learned to work in a modern environment not conducive for work. Amidst a lot of talk about getting bread, the conscious poet poses a theory that the meat has more value. “Cold cuts gonna hit you different when you hungry, get it?/ And I need enough to split it.”
Pieces of a Man may finish as one of the elite conceptual albums released this year, certainly worthy of competing with releases from Logic, Drake and A$AP Rocky sheerly in terms of quality. The fluctuations of Jenkins’ voice provides an effect of multiple voices from different people. For Jenkins to know that creating different alterations with your own voice naturally produces work that can’t be taught, means it can’t be repeated or copied. The truest way to make it his own.