Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mick Jenkins - Wave(s) Review

After Wave[s], no one should doubt Mick Jenkins for lacking self-awareness. Criticized, rather superfluously, for overusing water as an essential metaphor for thought, Jenkins, rather than changing his stance or detouring away from H2O, hails on opener ‘Alchemy,’ “they say I be talking bout water too much, you hear that?, that’s how many fucks I give.” It’s a declarative statement on a facet of his music some see as contrarian. For Jenkins though it’s pivotal in his escape from mixtape purgatory, a means to detach himself from the crowded Chicago Hip-Hop herd, with the Drill scene on one side, the Juke scene on the other. The conscious lyricism found on The Water[s] landed him leagues above his Windy City brethren, the sonic structures though, deep, brooding, and sometimes gaudy, allowed him to retain the city’s recent roots, festering in Trap and Jazz respectively. Wave[s], despite detaching a bit from Water[s]’ sulking fray by enveloping itself in relational banter, is more of the same. As a one-off affair, the extended (putting it lightly) metaphor of water as a means of enlightened thought is unique and conceptually-inclined enough to withhold critical endearment, continuing it though without evolving warrants the title of shtick, as does Jenkins’ unceasing commitment to evading the title of conscious rapper. 

Through much of Wave[s] Jenkins feels lost, unsure of his lyrical direction. The reason being that in 2015 being labelled a conscious rapper is quickly becoming an insult rather than a compliment, preaching to your fans will land you closer to Hopsin than Kendrick Lamar. It becomes difficult when your entire foundation relies on the truth, expecting ‘real Hip-Hop’ offers you no room to separate from spreading knowledge. Mick Jenkins though, is trying. Thus, on a handful of tracks here, Jenkins tries his fate at relational melodramas with varying success. ’40 Below,’ in large part because of its drowning beat and sample, conveys the problems had when the failure to commit arises, this coming from the perspective of the male with Jenkins wailing out “how she got so cold.” On the flip side though, ‘Your Love’ falls drastically from Jenkins noted standards, a grating chorus sung by the man himself offers no substance while the verses veer head-on into cliched territory. For the most part though Jenkins does his best to breath new life into his water-themed illustrations of sentience. ‘Slumber,’ while stylistically sound, tries its hand at the bland sleeping metaphor for ignorance, while ‘Get Up Get Down’ follows it up criticizing those who don’t take advantage of life’s offerings, similar to Outkast’s ‘Git Up, Git Out.’

While the content may be dry and parched, the sounds fair much better. No track here sonically contends with the likes of ‘Jazz,’ ‘514,’ or ‘Who Else’ off The Water[s], but throughout they effectively convey a sound Jenkins has manufactured since that mixtape’s release, a drowning, suffocating low end with a jagged, stuttering high end. ‘Piano’ sputters with a chopped n’ screwed effect that Jenkins glides over with ease, while ‘Alchemy’ submerges everything, including its Trap-laced hi-hats, in a slow-moving sludge that the rapper tonally annihilates. When it comes to his sonic structure, Jenkins, along with his consistently aggressive and on-point flow, hardly fails to encapsulate a consistency and coherency expected from his themed-projects. At only 9 tracks though, Wave[s] doesn’t offer much, and in many aspects seems like a B-side to The Water[s]’ works. Everything is less developed, antagonized, or analyzed. No lyric captivates like ‘Martyrs'’ first verse, and apart from a few more clever uses of the water metaphor like on ‘Perception’ (“‘bout to rain down on the new cool, like it ain’t shit, monsoon when we brainstorm, that’s the same shit”), no verse instantly wows. That includes ‘P’s & Q’s’ which boils down to a worthy showing of alteration with no substance.

Few, when the storm calms, will hold Wave[s] in the same regard as its predecessor, a little brother if you will that mimics the older one, adding something new without a care as to its quality. ‘The Giver’ is a ripe example of that, forgettable in every aspect, as Jenkins oozes over a girl with a beat that offers nothing notable to its name. As someone who feels Jenkins’ potential, if properly used, could land him amongst the most lamented in the new batch of emcee’s, Wave[s] is a drastic letdown. An artist capable of creating fluid imagery through the use of nature’s most basic liquid cries originality, while the lucidity of his verses and the realness of his experiences could form a coherent concept album on his words alone, much like how I think of Vince Staples. But alas, Wave[s] is a far calling card. But for a 9-track mixtape released a year after a complete work, forgiveness is expected, as I await his debut album for something more grandiose. 

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