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Mick Jenkins to swarm Legends

| Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Over the past two years, the rapper Mick Jenkins has moved to the forefront of the Chicago rap scene, and on Saturday night the MC will bring his idiosyncratic, socially-conscious music to Legends.

Jenkins’ second mixtape, “The Water[s],” was one of 2014’s most exciting rap releases, and he was voted one of the Best New Artists on Pitchfork’s 2014 Readers Poll. “The Water[s]” established him as one of the best post-Kendrick Lamar rappers, alongside fellow Chicagoans like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, with whom Jenkins has collaborated. Jenkins’ conscientious lyrics are paired with brooding, jazz-tinged production, recalling Lamar’s “Section.80.”

“Water is synonymous with the truth; you need it to wake up, progress and get the most out of life and find the true quality of happiness,” Jenkins told Billboard last year. “Me [and] people in general have false ideas of what makes you happy and what it means to be successful.”

Like Chance the Rapper, Jenkins embraces an earnest worldview and positive attitude in his music, channeling it through his deep voice and witty wordplay.

“Most rappers these days is actors / And I can’t keep watching the same movie,” Jenkins raps on mixtape highlight “Jazz.” As the production builds to a climatic, distorted guitar line, he name checks jazz legends like Coltrane, Mingus and Sinatra, adding a dimension of history to the track. “Talkin’ all that jazz might get you popped,” he raps on the chorus in his mellow baritone, summing up the song’s bleak meditation on truth. It’s this kind of intelligent, thought-provoking lyricism that makes Jenkins’ music so powerful.

Jenkins’ social consciousness is best embodied on first single “Martyrs,” on which he delivers commentary on the materialism embodied by mainstream rap. “I’ma get all this money / I’ma buy all this s**t,” Jenkins raps on the chorus. Like Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank),” you can as easily imagine the hook being misinterpreted as a party anthem, rather than an indictment of the thoughtless pursuit of money. “I pray it’s never too preachy but I’m preaching,” Jenkins raps on the track, summing up his nuanced approach to activism: thoughtful, but never hitting you over the head with the message.

Opening for Jenkins on Saturday night are Saba and Kirk Knight. Saba is a fellow Chicagoan and the front man of the Pivot Gang collective, of which Jenkins is a member. The 20-year-old rapper’s most high-profile break came with a guest verse on Chance the Rapper’s “Everybody’s Something,” and his solo mixtape “ComfortZone” follows up on that promise. “ComfortZone” is a mellow, moody release about growing up on Chicago’s West Side. Saba professes to being a quiet kid growing up, and while his mixtape shows that introspective streak, it is an assured artistic statement from a rapper who will surely break into the mainstream within the next few years.

Knight is a member of the Brooklyn-based Pro Era crew and perhaps best known as a producer. He has produced a number of tracks for Pro Era co-founder Joey Bada$$, including “Big Dusty” and “Hazeus View” off the rapper’s recent debut album, “B4.Da.$$.” Nonetheless, Knight has slowly stepped up to the mic, providing verses for tracks from other Pro Era members and releasing songs on SoundCloud.

On “Drink More” Jenkins raps, “Somewhere in the world there’s a Riff Raff concert that people gon’ swarm for.” No disrespect to the Neon Icon, but hopefully Notre Dame students will swarm in equally large numbers to Jenkins’ show at Legends on Friday night.

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About Matthew Munhall

Matthew thinks everyone should listen to Charly Bliss.

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