More often than not, it’s the simplest of necessities that are most essential to not only our individual well-being, but also our collective existence and prosperity as an entire population. Nevertheless, in a world that is entrenched with inevitable chaos and imperfection, it’s those same fundamental necessities that frequently become neglected and ultimately taken for granted. Much like the ways of the universe, the modern foundation of the music industry regularly finds itself immersed in a progressive culture that values status and possessions, in lieu of authenticity and substance.
With the recent release of his appropriately titled project, The Water[s], 23-year-old Chicago-based MC Mick Jenkins, has confidently taken it upon himself to ensure that the present arena of hip-hop is prompted on the importance of those same vital elements that are routinely abandoned. While the album, which is his second full-length offering, and his first official effort under Cinematic Music Group, is plentiful in metaphorical maneuvering, Mick almost immediately establishes the literal sense of the album’s title and concept, as well. On the second track, “T.H.C.”, he professes — “Water is the most important natural component that we have today. It makes up our world, our bodies, it has the ability to destroy and create. It is the healing component.” Jenkins subsequently continues his straightforward approach of the album’s theme on the ensuing track, “The Waters”, where he utilizes the song’s hook to openly question society’s internal compass of worth, by proclaiming — “Water more important than the gold. People for the gold. Everybody do it for the gold. People save your soul.”
As The Water[s] progresses, the album assemblage conceives an exploration of vastly different moods, which is partially credited to the blend of production throughout it, handled by an array of musical architects, including Mick’s frequent production collective, OnGaud (six of the fifteen tracks), and also including the likes of the highly touted Statik Selektah, and DJ Dahi, among others. Even more prominent than the project’s exceptional construction though, is Mick’s continued sense of self-awareness, which simultaneously develops alongside the character of the album. Throughout the central portion of The Water[s], Mick begins to comfortably display some unrestricted sentiment, and refreshing vulnerability, which is never more prevalent than on the record, “Healer”, where Mick sincerely expresses — “My piss ain’t never been so clear. My pockets never been so empty. My heart ain’t ever been this full, but my stomach is not, so my nigga don’t tempt me.”
Because of the authentic manner in which Mick approaches every individual verse, it’s nearly impossible to assume a track is solely about one specific subject. Whether it be assessing his own dimensions of stress, struggle, poise, skill, or ambition, he tends to exhibit a multitude of emotions within each record. While his lyrical capacity is diverse, there is certainly one perpetual theme throughout The Water[s], and that is Mick’s immense volume of transparency. In diverging from an over abundance of guest features (Joey Bada$$, Noname Gypsy, and Jean Deaux are the only MCs), Mick institutes a substantial impression of his own uniqueness, which truly allows him to fruitfully articulate his own ideologies.
While Mick’s lyrics are persistent in offering bold opinions and guidance to the listener, it never comes off as righteous. He has a superior skill in channeling his own life experiences and then portraying them through a digestible lyrical account, almost as if the microphone was his personal verbal diary. At certain heightened moments throughout the album, Mick’s inflection can be combative and furious, typically arising when he becomes most passionate about his subject matter, but at no time are his messages overbearing.
As the talent and landscape of rap music in Chicago continues to rapidly evolve and demand attention, the indisputable success that Mick has achieved in The Water[s], is not only confirmation that he is imperative to the progress of hip-hop within his specific region of the country, but most importantly, that he warrants recognition as a formidable opponent to some of hip-hop’s most highly regarded MCs.
Mick Jenkins’ proverbial cup is currently filled with some of the purest water that the industry has to offer, and if you ask the fearless man who’s holding it, he’ll assure you that there is an eternal supply of it to come.— Michael Blair