Review Summary: Step into The Water[s] and be refreshed.
“Drink more water.”
This is the message of Mick Jenkins, 23 year old Chicago MC. He recently opened for Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis on the Chicago stop of their tour and has earned the attention of much of the underground hip-hop community with his two successful mixtapes. After dropping his debut mixtape (a concept tape revolving loosely around the story of the temptation of Adam & Eve) Jenkins has released his follow up The Water[s]
. His theme this time? A more open ended concept that analyzes the freeing attributes of our most important natural resource: water.
The simplicity of the theme allows for a conscious and introspective examination of how valuable water is to us and how we’ve all taken this precious commodity for granted. The proclamation of the title track: “Water more important than the gold. People for the gold. Everybody do it for the gold. People save your soul,” is perhaps the thesis statement for the whole tape, one not likely heard confidently from many other prominent hip-hop artists today. On “Healer” Jenkins states: “My piss never been this clear. My pockets never been this empty. My heart never been this full but my stomach’s not so nigga don’t tempt me.” He laments the empty successes of some of his peers with lyrics like “I couldn’t afford to get my girl into this open mic that I performed for...But somewhere in the world there’s a Riff Raff concert that people gon' swarm for." There’s something about Jenkins’ delivery that leads you to an understanding that it’s more than jealousy at work-Jenkins feels he has much more to offer today’s youth than most of his peers who treat their body of work as a joke or use it to perpetuate self destructive lifestyles. His brutally honest confessions pepper this mixtape with enough emotion and sincerity for the listener to mostly buy into Jenkins’ moral stance, even if he does have a tendency to drill it into the listener a little too often. “Little niggas got guns now,” he raps on “Martyrs.” His bars are consistently delivered with passion and power and are chock full of plenty of social commentary, calling to mind the flow of Kendrick with a bit more of a socially conscious delivery. Jenkins’ stance elevates his work to an entirely different arena than Chicago peers like Chance and Chief Keef.
Sonically, the beats used on this tape match the theme of water perfectly. Everything is slowed down and airy, offering an immersive experience that delivers the sensation of being underwater. The production is very adept for a project with such a small budget. Opener “Shipwrecked” boasts a fantastic shift in the beat about half way through that brings with it Jenkins’ intense delivery. Joey Bada$$ and NoNameGypsy put in some noteworthy guest appearances here, as well as some well used hooks from Ebony and Jean Deaux. OnGaud kills it again, just as before on Trees & Truths
, showing up for 6 of the 15 tracks and creating a tension with each track that captivates and holds the attention of the listener.
Jenkins sees his music as his mission. Where other artists give their fans toxic lyrics about empty riches and self destruction, Jenkins offers his fans hope and inspiration. He sees the world for what it truly is, never sugar coating or offering fantasies of fame or fortune. His music is as refreshing as, well, water. This project cements the man as not only a skilled lyricist but also a great storyteller and a technically proficient songwriter. The Water[s]
is an improvement on his debut in almost every aspect.
Chicago has proven to be THE city to watch for rising star MCs and Mick Jenkins is the latest up and comer to show his chops. The hip hop community needs artists like this. All it takes is just a few successful artists like Jenkins to cause a shift in consciousness. Time will tell if people will latch onto someone like Jenkins the same way they did Chance, despite having such a radically different message.
So, have you drank enough water today?