Review Summary: Mick comes through with another jazzy, thought-provoking concept. Although not as watertight as before
Chicagoan wordsmith Mick Jenkins is perhaps best known for his concepts. Some find this trait too preachy and pretentious, while others (including me) see it as a conceit that allows him to stand out from a thriving modern hip-hop scene. Before with The Water[s], Mick’s breakthrough mixtape, he conveyed the importance of truth. With his debut studio album here, The Healing Component, love is on the agenda, being symbolised as the “healing component” – as of course, love heals all (cliché alert). However, don’t expect any gooey ballads, as Mick’s artistic gaze is set on the wider picture of love, exploring a palette of themes to paint it with finesse. These include the use of his music to spread positivity (“Spread Love”); the friction that exists among creed, ethnicity and gender (“Strange Love”), and his perceived importance of expressing love for others through prayer (“Daniel’s Bloom”). What really resonates with me personally however is Mick’s frequent mentioning of loving oneself. He even devotes an entire track to this underappreciated topic with “Angles”, dropping witty lyrics and references to devise the ultimate self-respect anthem. Also containing what may be his funniest line: “You should love you so much that you go Marilyn Manson and blow yourself.”
However, I do have some grumblings concerning Mick’s new concept. Rather than leaving the lyrical content to the listener’s imagination, Mick’s has decided to forcefully lecture its actual meaning via these bloated, self-indulgent soundbites (apparent real-life conversations with his sister). It’s a shame, as although it was quite explicit, the concept on The Water[s] revealed itself more cryptically – a quality I found truly absorbing. Furthermore, Mick’s writing occasionally comes across as a bit pedestrian, such as the chorus of “Spread Love”, where Mick decides it appropriate to repeatedly drone “Spread love, spread love…”. Elsewhere on the record, some of Mick’s verses and hooks sound like random assortments of his mannerisms: the trees, the truth, the water, and so on. It’s almost as if some of the material here has been regurgitated out of previous writing sessions. Also – a minor point perhaps – does anyone else not think that Mick’s purposeful naming of The Healing Component to correspond with THC a little corny?
Luckily, where Mick’s sermon occasionally wavers, the music redeems – consisting of the same murky jazz-rap affair he established on The Water[s]. However, on The Healing Component, Mick channels his jazz and soul influences more strongly than before, smoothing his flows and singing with added confidence. This is immediately apparent from the opening title track, where Mick’s soulful croon infuses with an uplifting brass section to produce his catchiest and grandest hook yet. The jazzier shift in style comes to a head on lead single, and BADBADNOTGOOD collab, “Drowning”. Beginning with Mick’s subtle wailings pasted over a spacious cowbell backbone, the track crescendos into a jazz-rap masterclass; his impassioned and dynamic performance ensures the spotlight never leaves him in spite of the exhilarating instrumental. At the halfway point, we get a nice dance break with “Communicate”, allowing some digestion of the conceptual mass. Jovially flowing over a lusciously textured beat mirroring the euphoria of love, Mick shows us that he knows how to relax from educating the masses when he wants to.
Although a tad bloated and preachy, and coming off as “The Water[s] Pt.2” at times, The Healing Component is as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking – a solid stab at a topic so multidimensional and misunderstood. However, I fear that if Mick continues to ply this “one concept one album” route, his creative output may suffer. He’ll need to change things up next time to remain relevant, let alone advance his position. Perhaps the inclusion of more personal experience? Although shades of it are present here, it would be nice to learn more about who Mick is - we know what he believes in, but what experiences led him to develop his precepts?