I respect winter. There’s nothing like the silence after a storm or the way it provides a glow in the darkest night. It’s an unrelenting, unwavering season, just as Mick Jenkins is an unrelenting, unwavering emcee.
That's what made his breakthrough project, The Water[s], great. The project has the power and enormity of a winter storm. His brooding voice is like the most callous winter night, no matter how prepared you think you are, it always leaves you paralyzed and it has the ability to stop you in your tracks. His lyrics are as dense as packed snow and the beats engulf you like an avalanche. The Water[s] are pure, but frozen. It’s an album you have to sit down with, unpack every bar, let every snare overwhelm you; perfect for a winter night with nothing else to do but listen.
While winter always wears on my psyche, I never tire of TheWater[s] and the chill Mick sends down my spine with his every verse. This is one of the reasons he is one of the most promising emcees in the game, but I think it also clouded my vision. In the dead of winter, it’s impossible to feel spring, and The Water[s] made it impossible to feel his next, much warmer project, Wave[s]...at first.
The Wave[s] and The Water[s] are night and day, summer and winter. The title alone evokes feelings of soothing warmth and the sound is quick to follow. Mick’s icy flow is thawed by breezy, bouncing beats from the likes of THEMpeople and Kaytranada. Where The Water[s] is an often dark, serious album, The Wave[s] sounds more free and experimental. It didn’t stick with me at first - I think I had Mick boxed in as a different kind of emcee - but going back, I’m just as impressed by Wave[s]. His voice and his flow aren’t much different, yet they fill a completely different soundscape. Songs like “40 Below” and “P’s & Q’s” give you the awe-inspiring, potent punch reminiscent of Water[s], but are more ornate and colorful, a feeling that's conveyed expertly in the video for “P’s & Q’s.”
Or how about “Your Love”? The song has emerged as a favorite and is a perfect example of the difference in moods, feels, and attitudes Mick can convey. Over a thumping, electro-twinged beat, Mick paints a fantasy of trips, parties and a girl with a "Crown Royal skin tone." Again, the difference is best seen, not just heard. “Dehydration” and “Jazz” are some of my favorite videos of the past few years. They are simply beautiful, as haunting as they are cinematic, but they don’t feature Mick in a fake mustache, surrounded by booties that bounce like the Kaytranada-crafted instrumental.
"It turned out really cool, completely different than what I do. Those hard-hitting rap songs are what people have come to expect, but “Wave[s]” is a lot more musical, a lot more melodic. There’s short songs with an attempt at being infectious, so it creates a different vibe, a lot of different waves and experimentation with different sounds.” - Mick Jenkins (Redeye Chicago interview)
It’s amazing how much the environment that surrounds us can affect how we perceive music. I don’t think I could appreciate the zest and color of Wave[s] while shoveling snow. I found it again at just the right time. Not just because cruising down Rockville Pike on the way to a BBQ is perfect for “Piano,” but because it looks like Mick is on the verge of dropping his next project. In an interview from January, he dropped some hints about his next album, [T]he [H]ealing [C]omponents, and projected a summer release. The album is now finished.
Aside from the fact that the Chicago-bred producer group, THEMpeople, are heavily involved, we don't know much about the album. Maybe "The Artful Dodger" is a preview of what is around the corner? We may not know much about the album specifically, but I know I'd love for THC to serve as Mick Jenkins' April - the bridge between the icy power of The Water[s] and the warm vibrancy of The Wave[s]. Mick's shown the ability to do both separately, but if he successfully welds both into one cohesive project, it would mean he's at full bloom, ready to spring into the conversation of hip-hop's best.
Regardless of what the project sounds like I know I'll be ready with my mind as open as my windows because too often what we hear from an artist first is what we expect for albums to come. But like seasons, great artists change, allowing us to appreciate their differences; you need the dead of winter to enjoy the spring.
It's time we start to look at artists and their work like seasons. Shall we begin with Mick Jenkins?