Mick Jenkins, The Conscience #TopProspects

Posted 2 years ago by
Download DJBooth's new App, The PLUG

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when the word "conscience" became a taboo in hip-hop, when a simple test - "Do these words actually mean anything?" - went from an essential tenet of rapping to an albatross. It might have been "Moment of Clarity," it might have been the ringtone rap era, but the idea that lyrical complexity was equivalent to career suicide became the widely accepted truth in hip-hop. 

Except it's not true, especially in the newer generation, as artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper not only embrace serious music with higher aims, but become household names because of those aims, not in spite of them. And that's why Mick Jenkins is a Top Prospect; the man's proudly waving a middle finger at those who treat lyricism as a four-letter word, and earning a name for himself in the process. 

A divorce shuttled a young Mick Jenkins between Huntsville, Alabama and Tallahassee, Florida, but it's really Chicago that raised him, and Chicago that made him a rapper. With the Windy City now firmly in the national spotlight it's a great time to be a Chicago artist, and perhaps not coincidentally, a tragically deadly time to be a young person in Chicago. But with both an unflinchingly aggressive drill scene on one end of the city's hip-hop spectrum and an often almost psychedlic sound on the other, Jenkins' deep growl of a voice, mixed with an art school mentality to his videos, makes it nearly impossible to easily place the artist in the city's scene. 

"I feel like I grew up in the same place that drill artists grew up, so did a lot of the rest of us, and I want to represent that guy who grew up in those situations, who saw those same things, but didn't turn out that way, for whatever reason. I feel like that person isn't represented. I have that mixture, I'm in the middle. 'Martyrs' is intense lyrically, but if you just switched the lyrics, it could be a RondoNumbaNine song, or a Lil Dirk song."

So how will hip-hop's often rigid categorization system deal with Jenkins, a rapper who can be intimidating and lyrically deep, often at the same time? That's hip-hop's problem, not his, and he's not shy about revealing how a rap taboo word, poetry, is what really pushed him into the lyrical arts and gave him his first stage experience.

"In high school, I was in a drama group called Controversy. One day our director was like, 'I wish someone could do a poem to accompany one of our skits.' I decided I'd try my hand at it, came back the next day and everyone loved it. I did it all over the city, at churches, things of that nature. That sparked the poetry bug, and I just started writing from then on."

In our conversation Jenkins says he hasn't written pure poetry in a long time, the meters and rhythms of hip-hop are now too implanted in his head to keep him from turning a poem into a rap, but combine his poetry background with the gospel and neo-soul music his parents played constantly, add in a dose of early influences from the likes of Little Brother, Common and Kweli, and the blurry edges of his music begin to come into focus. Once you begin to see his vision, it's hard to look away. 

Especially with a brand new signing to Cinematic Music Group giving Mick's jet pack some fuel, hip-hop's about to have a powerful new voice rising through its ranks, one that's not afraid to have his music actually mean something. We need more artists like that, we need more Mick Jenkins. And if it turns out there's only one Mick Jenkins, and there only ever will be one, that's just fine with us. 

In the meantime, be sure to follow him @FreeMickJenkins, check out more of his music on The DJBooth, and keep an ear out for his upcoming The Water[s] album, coming whenever Mick is goddamn ready, that's when... or August 12. 

[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]

Mick Jenkins   InterviewsTop Prospects

Get The PLUG app by DJBooth and get the best hip-hop writing and news delivered daily.

Featured In This Article

DJBooth Announces Our New Top Prospects….

Here at DJBooth we do more than just pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve, we consider finding new artists and giving them a platform an... Read More
Posted 2 years ago by Nathan S.

You Might Like

Featured Video

Hip Hop News

Holy Sh*t You Need to Hear Jidenna Freestyle on Funkmaster Flex

We had no idea the "Classic Man" singer was this nice. Read More
Posted 11 minutes ago by Brent Bradley

J Dilla’s Legacy is an Example of Artist Celebration Done Right

Never has J Dilla’s legacy felt sullied by greed, drama, or any other pitfalls found in other artists’ careers post-mortem. Read More
Posted 31 minutes ago by Brent Bradley

3-on-3: Kid Cudi “Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’”

Three questions, three opinions. Read More
Posted about 2 hours ago by DJ Z

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up, But an André 3000 Comeback Seems Imminent

The original ATLien is showing all the signs of a full-fledged leap back into music. Read More
Posted 2 hours ago by Brent Bradley

Dave East on the Intersection of Fatherhood & Hip-Hop: “I Gotta Have a Filter”

The East Harlem, New York native is now signed to Def Jam, but his approach to music is changing. Read More
Posted 4 hours ago by DJ Z
Sample Text - Sample Link




Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.