Mick Jenkins – Pieces of a Man

Mick Jenkins is an anomaly in today’s hip-hop landscape in many ways. He’s a committed spoken word poet and lyricist; a style that most younger artists stray away from. He’s a Chicago artist that is around the same age as Lil Durk but did not follow the drill wave that catapulted his city and most of his peers to national stardom. He burst onto the scene at around the same time as Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, but his sound is neither Gospel nor Roc(k) influenced. Mick Jenkins, above all other things, is his own man. He’s a unique artist in every sense of contemporary hip-hop, bringing clever lyricism over heavily jazz-inspired instrumentals. Despite the young age of 26 and only being in the spotlight for a few years, he has an old soul, and it reflects in his music. Ironically, this old soul has always been a breath of fresh air whenever I’ve listened to his music in the past, but, as we must do, we’re going to see what’s really REALLY good with his newest project.

Scouting Report

  • Like I’ve said before, he’s a very adept and robust lyricist. Likes to utilize alliteration, similes/extended metaphors, double/triple entendres often
  • His sound is sometimes hard to digest; an unwavering commitment to jazzy, neo-soul influenced instrumentals, primarily as of late. No turn up songs
  • Often uses his music as a platform to discuss social and cultural issues, does not hesitate to call out stuff that he thinks is wack
  • Best Songs released before Pieces of a Man: Crossroads (feat. Chance the Rapper & Vic Mensa),””Martyrs.” “Dehydration (feat. The Mind).” “P’s and Q’s,” “Strange Love
  • Best Project released before Pieces of a Man: The Water[s]

Track-by-Track

As always, here is a reference for how scores for tracks and projects are determined.

  1. Heron Flow (feat. Julien Bell): No actual rapping on the track, spoken word introduction over a live audience, jazzy outro, sets the tone for the sound of the album. N/A
  2. Stress Fracture (feat. Mikahl Anthony): Dense, warm instrumental where Mick raps all about how people perceive him and how he feels about it. Good vocals from Mikahl Anthony. 4/5
  3. Gwendolynn’s Apprehension: Very wavy instrumental, almost Madlib-esque. The song is based on a 1959 poem about youth and what they think is cool, flips it on its head as “too cool.” 4.5/5
  4. Soft Porn: More basic instrumental this time, uses soft porn as an extended metaphor on social constructs, gets hard to listen to, hook isn’t particularly gripping. 3.5/5
  5. Grace & Merry: Short song, follows the same flow throughout, rare flex track from Jenkins here. Simple instrumental but heavy with bass and does have modern drums. 3.5/5
  6. Barcelona: Mick is all the way immersed in his jazz bag here. Best display of flow and excellent lyrical performance over a very good instrumental. All around very strong. 4.5/5
  7. Percy Interlude: Skit, a conversation that Mick had with his friend while they’re smoking and coughing, leads into Reginald (Reggie). N/A
  8. Reginald (feat. Ben Hixon): Warmer but still jazzy instrumental here, good display of flow and lyricism as well where he talks about calling out wack shit (Reggie). 4/5
  9. Padded Locks (feat. Ghostface Killah): Sharp chopped sample here that channels both Mick and Ghostface to turn in their best rapping performances of the album. Both spazzed, especially Tony Starks. 4.5/5
  10. Ghost: Warm jazzy sound returns, song references Mick’s work ethic towards his craft and his relationships. More personal song, not a lyrical flex or metaphor. 4/5
  11. Heron Flow 2: Continues with the spoken word recording from track 1, referencing the title of the album as one can never see the whole of a man in the light. Jazzy, guitar outro. N/A
  12. Plain Clothes: Uses plain as an extended metaphor for “planes” and “getting fly” throughout the song, very dope. Uses a melodic flow throughout, a different approach works. 4/5
  13. Pull Up: Darker instrumental here, raps about how people and friends around him have taken his newfound fame negatively and how he’s struggling to keep everyone happy. 4/5
  14. Consensual Seduction (feat. Corinne Bailey Rae): Very dope instrumental, on the Madlib-esque side again. A song that references #metoo, addresses the grey area of sexual consent from both a girls/guys perspective. 4/5
  15. U Turn: Warm, almost psychedelic instrumental here. Cruising song, doesn’t do too much regarding extended metaphors or lyrical flexes. 4/5
  16. Understood: More upbeat, sample-based instrumental, Mick raps in a fast flow and does it well on the verses. Hook leaves much to be desired though. 3.5/5
  17. Smoking Song (feat. BadBadNotGood): Very slow paced but very jazzy instrumental. Song’s content is exactly what the title claims it to be, drags on for a bit too long for its slow pace. 3.5/5

Final Thoughts

Mick Jenkins gave us exactly what I expected him to give us; an album that was heavily steeped in lyricism and elaborate production. There’s nothing wack on this album; he is inconsistent when it comes to hooks and melodic songwriting, but it’s not a surprise due to his intense focus on his lyricism.  He’s at his best when he catches the vibe and raps his ass off, which he does on multiple occasions; his best performances come on “Barcelona” & “Padded Locks” alongside a HOF-level wordsmith in Ghostface Killah. Mick also delivers on concept songs such as “Ghost,” “Plain Clothes” & “Consensual Seduction,” where he explores a deeper extended metaphor throughout in a way that fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco would be proud of. He touches on personal topics at times throughout the album to complete the concept of his album title, giving us pieces of him, but the skits show us that we (his fans) won’t ever get to know the “whole” him because to get that you’d have to see him out of the spotlight. To conclude, this project is a dense but solid, refreshing effort from Mr. Jenkins. Best release of the week; if you’re a real hip-hop head, you’ll enjoy this a lot.

Final Score: 82/100

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