Mick Jenkins Faces Fear With 'or more; the anxious'
The cover of Mick Jenkins’ newest mixtape acts as a testament to not only himself, but his journey as an artist. The grainy, black-and-white image features the young Chicago rapper hiding in the mouth of an alley. His back is pressed against a wall. The faint outline of his expressionless eyes and the small cloud of smoke that escaped his lips contribute to his current state of mind. He seems lost, distant – or in transit. The billboards which tower overhead almost look like a street intersection. Mick Jenkins is at a crossroads, stuck in the middle of cultivating his career and maintaining his self-preservation.
That is where or more; the anxious comes in. The seven-track mixtape dropped last week via Soundcloud, comes nearly a year after his debut album, The Healing Component, and is split into two parts. In a written statement, Jenkins described “or more” as a project series, and “as creatives we live in a world of time constraints imposed by illusive industry standards, anxious demands of appreciators, or even our own self reflections.”
He went on to add that “or more” is a “smaller context of this larger pool of thoughts.. a world of exploration removed from the confines of a particular method. It’s my way of sharing the beauty of Indecisiveness.” Jenkins’ anxiety unfolds, as he continued to confess, “Sometimes we have to make music to locate the true music within our being.”
The first track off the tape, “Happy Gilmore,” lays the foundation for his thoughts, which are deeply rooted in and dictated by Chicago’s landscape. His version of the City is outlined by a fully-present, fast-talking Vic Mensa, who points out: “The fact that … so many people outside the culture of Chicago, they hyped up the music not knowing that real lives would be affected. All the type of madness happened within the music, and the music was a real life depiction of that.”
Australian-based music producer Origami’s heavy, ominous beat – appropriately titled, “End Boss,” and filed as “Mf Doom x Earl Sweatshirt Type Beat” – fits Jenkins’ attitude. Origami’s steady sound shoots over Jenkins’ every verse: “N–as in Pilsen, not in Paris, they still gon’ have to find us / My security blanket didn’t manifest like Linus. Sharp as Steve Harvey lining in the 9-9 / It’s a young black man more honest than he’s non-violent.”
Origami shared via Youtube that this particular beat was a marriage of “new school and old school” elements, and he felt like “it got that in your face vibe.” To that effect, Jenkins ends the song with: “If you think I’m on some shit, you should listen / I’ma look you in the face if I hit you / Give a fuck about your clique or who with you, n–a.”
Jenkins’ disposition carries into “C is for CashMoney,” a casually confident remake of 2014’s The Wave[s]’ “P’s and Q’s” where alliteration reigned as king. He finds comfort in his partnership with Chicago producers THEMPeople and ENG CRTN from the UK to complete the smooth, slick number. His heated temper from “Happy Gilmore” simmers, but he quietly strikes: “Name a campaign more cohesive than truth / a culmination of lies, a compilation of proof / A combination of both is what creates all this confusion.”
By the time Jenkins reaches for his “Gucci Bag” packed with “funky flowers,” he appears more relaxed; he is in tune with himself, and remains aware of his surroundings. The soft, hazy track loops in singer Michael Anthony for the chorus and brings Jenkins to a halt: “N–as egos give me chills / I shook that bitch and learned the real / My soul ain’t worth no 100 mil / Look boy, I do this shit for real / You know how that feel?”
Or more; the anxious concludes with “Energies,” and Jenkins returns to solemnity. He enlists the help of Saba; the two are contemplative, as they try to dissect the meaning of emitting an “energy” or a “vibe.” Their conversation progresses into how these feelings have an affect on themselves and the people around them. Jenkins says, “we feel the lows, we feel the highs.”
They begin to understand that their livelihood, presence and existence are all determined by their actions and driven by their ambitions. “I’m starting to face all the music,” Jenkins admits. “Amusing to think I was bending for energy / That was confusing and using me.” Or more; the anxious narrates Jenkins’ growth. His decision to develop, evolve and change over time is more than relatable; it is a fact of life.
Other songs like “A Layover” and “FreeNation Rebels” are loose anecdotes of his struggles, his desire to break away from conformity. His uncertainties and upsets make him withdrawn, worried about his future and the legacy he could leave behind. Creating room for clarity and sensibility are not so easy. “Vampire in Brooklyn” is on the industry that would like to place him in one box.
But he is shedding his skin of doubts and coming into his own: “Now my little light is incandescent / Now a n–a skin is iridescent. You can’t get this glow with acquiescence.”