Mick Jenkins is a thinker among thinkers. Ever since releasing his first full-length entitled "The Mickstape" in early 2012, he has slowly built up a reputation as being a super-conscious MC, putting out projects infused with super jazzy beats and food-for-thought rhymes which culminate into a tightly formed concept. His big break came with his 2014 mixtape, "The Waters," which was a refreshing concept record where he used Water as a metaphor for truth. It is one of the better Hip-Hop projects to come out this decade, and is almost universally regarded as his best project to date. He came back right back in 2016 with his debut studio album, The Healing Component. With this album, Mick portrays love as something that can heal all wounds, with religious scripture serving as a big influence throughout the album. Although it wasn't quite on the same level as The Waters, it was still a very good debut album for Mick, cementing his status as a very important name in modern conscious rap.
Now, he is back with his 2nd album, Pieces of a Man. In a lot of ways, this album is a continuation of his previous work. The production is jazzy and lo-fi. His verses are dense and complex, as there is a lot of content to unpack. Everything is binded together into a tight concept. However, where this album differs from his previous work is who Mick seems to be talking to. On the two aforementioned projects, Mick would use a concept (I.e., Water or Love) as a scope to explore topics such as his faith, racism, violence and many other societal ills. He projected his views outward to the masses. With this project, he is focused solely on himself, asking what are the ingredients that make up the "Pieces of a man."
Lyrically, Mick again comes through with flying colors. He uses the scope of self awareness to explore many different issues. Songs such as "Stress Fracture" and "Gwendolyn's Apprehension" explore the superficiality of human nature, where Mick reminds the listeners that love and authenticity are far more important than minuscule things such as material possessions. "Consensual Seduction," a track seemingly inspired by the #MeToo movement, sees Mick going in about a sexual encounter he has with this girl, letting her know that consent is of utmost importance to him. On "Reginald," Mick is addressing the complexity of man, stating that instead of being quick to judge someone, we need to get a full picture of why someone is the way that they are. What really ties this album together conceptually is that whenever Mick is giving the listener his perspective on a particular issue, he is always checking himself as a person as well. He admits that he has succumbed to the glitz and glamour of material possessions. He holds himself accountable when it comes to sexual consent. He states that he sometimes is quick to judge people without truly getting to know them. He portrays himself in an innately relatable sense--that he is a human being with good qualities and bad qualities. He has had his triumphs, as well as his faults. He shows that he isn't special in any way, and that he is just another sentient being experiencing life's journey.
The production and vibe of this album are similar to previous projects that Mick Jenkins has put out. The beats are mellow, jazzy and stripped back. "Heron Flow" and Heron Flow 2" both feature live jazz rhythm sections, as well as spoken word pieces performed by Mick himself. On the album's closer, "Smoking Song," Mick spits softly over a bouncy jazz bass and light percussive brushes, while a bass clarinet wails away in the background. It ends the album on a sleepy note. Almost all of the other tracks on here fit under that same mellow vibe. The album moves at a fairly slow pace, which might be a turn off to some listeners due to the fact that there are no trap bangers or bass heavy turn up songs. There are no climactic moments or Boombap posse cuts. Mick is going for a consistent, lo-fi aesthetic throughout the entire project, and it is clear that he doesn't care at all about crafting a pop hit. This project is a bit on the longer side, clocking in at 17 tracks over 53 minutes. However, with the keen intellect and the sense of self-awareness that he possesses, that shouldn't matter to most people. With this album, Mick uses the production as a soft backdrop for him to speak his peace--and he does it quite well.
Overall, Pieces of a man is yet another great addition to Mick's discography. This album teaches us to be more patient and understanding of our fellow man. It serves as a reminder that we are all traveling our own path in life, and that we are all a culmination of everything that we have experienced. He illustrates the fact that humans are a fundamentally flawed species, yet a species that is constantly evolving and growing. Mick proves that he himself is growing as an artist as well, as he possesses a level of self awareness that few MC's have. For him to have the same awareness of self that he has for issues that affect all people is quite impressive. Despite the fact that the album runs a bit long and feels a bit too mellow at times, Mick Jenkins once again is able to show why he is a force to be reckoned with on the conscious Hip-Hop stage--and why he will be for years to come.
Filed under: Album Reviews