Our Take • Mick Jenkins: Wave[s]
A year ago, Mick Jenkins blessed his hometown and longtime fans with a seminal piece of work he called The Water[s]. A calendar and some change removed from the release that vaulted him to the Lollapalooza stage in 2015, Jenkins was due for a follow up and with his recently-dropped Wave[s], the heavy-handed 24-year-old continued to prove why he’s quickly becoming one of the most powerful voice in hip-hop; Chicago or anywhere for that matter.
If the name wasn’t enough of a clue, Wave[s] picks up somewhat where The Water[s] left off, the name itself a nod to a sort of groundswell of momentum that the young artist has built for himself. That momentum has allowed Jenkins to ease up, if only slightly, and see the world around him a bit more vividly as he has appeared prime to climb the mountain of hip-hop they call ‘the game’.
To be sure, he’s been playing it for a minute. 2013’s Trees+Truths is a poor man’s Section.80, a tightly-wound pre-masterpiece that has all the elements of its subsequent installments without the exact same effect. On The Water[s] he found himself, his voice and his message all clearly intertwined and on Wave[s] we find the protagonist in this epic taking some time away from the battle to open his eye a bit more, experience love and take it all in before he charges forward once again; ascended the ranks of hip-hop.
Love is a constant theme throughout Jenkins’ latest release and a topic he turns over throughout on tracks like “Your Love” where he raps “Had to hold it down for the love, type of girl make you wanna leave the drugs”. While not firmly under the curtain of H20-based analogies, Mick continues to exude a sort of gentle authenticity that is a constant regardless of the subject matter. That track gives way to “The Giver” and “40 Below” which continue to delve into those early honeymoon moments that pace the early days of any relationship and the steady truth necessary to sustain it. His strength throughout here is his ability to relate his own personal stories in a way that seems somehow universal. It’s interesting to see Mick open up a bit more here and he proves that he can handle himself on a large range of understanding.
The standout tracks are easily “Piano” and “Perception,” though. Outside of the lead single “P’s & Q’s” which itself was a small masterpiece, this pairing of tracks make the album a memorable one. On the latter, produced by Mulatto of Hurt Everybody and ThemPeople take Mick in a very cool direction that takes his innately powerful voice and doubles down on it en route to a steady, strong track throughout that feature some of the best bars we’ve had the chance to receive from Mr. Jenkins recently. Similarly, “Piano” finds him once again alongside frequent collaborators Thempeople and the comfort is immediately obvious. Evident throughout is small but significant plays with the vocals that allow him to reach different and interesting intonations on both tracks, which I’ll credit to Thempeople.
Each track also comes packaged with an artistic rendering from Hayveyah McGowan. The pieces are available on his Soundcloud, will be on sale at upcoming shows, and is a unique, cool way to utilize song artwork.
While Wave[s] isn’t the kind of watershed release that The Water[s] was, it didn’t have to be. The project is a perfect fit for the time: both in Mick’s career and the general environment right now. There aren’t many holding a candle to Jenkins’ lyrical ability and, without any direct competition in sight it appears that Mick is settling into his newfound notoriety while preparing us for what is to come. The growth is evident and the confidence that is laid thick throughout is a product of the work done thus far. This is a glimpse in time for the young artist and this one is certainly enough to hold us over until the next one.