Mick Jenkins Drowns Legends with ‘The Water[s]’
Thom Behrens | Sunday, February 8, 2015
Rising with the momentum that only jazz-influenced, THC-driven and lyrically conscious artists can gather, Alabama-born, Chicago-raised slam-poet-turned-rapper Mick Jenkins started his 2015 tour in support of last year’s mixtape “The Water[s]” by playing at Legends of Notre Dame Restaurant and Night Club (You may know it for Hip-Hop Night). Although posits in conversation about MCs I’ve seen play at Legends are usually met with topical, caricatured retorts of “Cool! I remember him! I saw Ying Yang Twins in Kansas City last summer!” or the more social “No way, that’s hilarious,” last weekend Legends actually booked someone good.
Starting his show with no introduction, the up-and-coming artist started his show to a crowd of about 40 with all the movement, engagement with the crowd and commitment to his words necessary to sell a new image. In addition to being an excellent performer, Mick Jenkins kept himself in tune with his still-rising fame; he told the crowd, “If you don’t know the words [to these songs], just bounce.” Impressing fans and spectators by touring not only with a DJ (“DJ Greenslime”) but with an eleven-piece drum kit, Mick Jenkins worked hard to connect with the crowd and provide an enthralling live experience.
He didn’t undersell his work, and he didn’t undersell the Christian themes or personal and relevant content on “The Water[s].” He took time to explain the meaning behind his cohesive symbolism: “Who knows what the waters is?” And although anyone who’s given the tape a listen can immediately understand the feeling behind the tape, no one can articulate it like the artist: “There was a time in my life where I faced a lot of things that helped me grow as a man. … [I gained] a lot of wisdom. … My manifestation for that is drinking.”
Free from a reputation of a rapper who has reached his peak, Mick Jenkins stands on nothing but the honesty of his words, and this freedom helps him on stage. He works as an artist should – he works hard to create an organic live experience and to connect with his fans, not just recreate recordings. And fans came to connect. Although the crowd was small (and although no crowd member knew what poutine was), Mick’s mic checks to the crowd were met with enthusiasm. Everyone came with a favorite song, and Mick played ‘em all.
“It’s good to spend time in the waters,” Jenkins relates as he sings in reaction to materialism in hip hop, greed and envy he sees in the world. Loath to be titled, generalized, or boxed in with “conscious” rappers, Mick Jenkins seeks to probe a new direction of what I guess we’ll call “self-aware rapping.” Frothing with energy and shining with individuality, Mick Jenkins’s style and ideals stand to give as much to his career as they give to his ability as a performer.