Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mick Jenkins - The Healing Component Review

Much like years past, Chicago has been no stranger to media attention during the summer months for its abundance of black on black crime. Like Chance The Rapper said on his pivotal 'Pusha Man,' "everybody dies in the summer, wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it's spring." Along with a slew of heavy-minded bodies, Chance has essentially led a new era out of Chicago founded on the roots of combating brutality with peace. One such artist is Mick Jenkins, who grew up in the thick of it all. Rather than submit to the pressures brought on by gang wars or rapid drug consumption, Jenkins, through his breakout debut mixtape The Water[s], aimed to promote positivity and enlightenment as a means to solve problems. Over two years removed from his most noted work, Jenkins has returned with The Healing Component, his long-awaited debut album. With help from a handful of similar-minded Chicago upstarts, and production that molds his aquatic nature with a jazzier feel, The Healing Component battles Jenkins' the only way he sees fit; with love, compassion, and understanding. A few spotty moments here and there don't detract from the vital message sent, easily improving over 2015's Wave[s].

In the new age of Hip-Hop, more and more street-savvy wordsmiths are pushing against the foundation of the genre in an attempt to alter its outlook, both to the listening community and the naysayers who've already made up their mind. While The Healing Component doesn't have all the answers, the purpose Jenkins makes strikingly clear through numerous skits, is the opening up for discussion. While Chance, and others like him, have amassed a following devoted to the gospel and the messages it preaches, there's no connecting point to the struggling members of the black community. In other words, no gang member would dare listen to that weirdo. Jenkins, with his harsher, more ferocious rapping style, finds himself reiterating Chance's mission statement under the disguise of a gangsta rapper. Each side can enjoy Jenkins, whether it be thanks to his calm, determined demeanor, his meticulous production, or his philosophical mindset. At times, sure, he comes off as a bit of a know-it-all, akin to another Chicago soothsayer, Lupe Fiasco, but the beefy lyrics and intricate wordplay do more than enough to mask his holier-than-thou outlook.

Above all the language lies The Healing Component's best selling point; the production. With Jenkins' aesthetics narrowed down, the team of producers, which include THEMpeople, who command roughly half the tracks, Kaytranada, Sango, and Rascal, are able to weave versatility amongst a strict code of ideas. If you're familiar with Jenkins' music, THC's sound won't be of any surprise to you. The key difference lies in the high quality, which shines in choice examples like 'Plugged,' 'Daniels Bloom,' and 'Prosperity.' Multiple, and often times subtle, beat changes are applied throughout the album, done so with sincerity instead of force. The farty synths on 'As Seen In Bethsaida' may be distracting to some, but the mid-verse beat switch that watches a dazzling keyboard arrangement fizzle under Jenkins is splendid, to say the least. This all goes without mentioning BADBADNOTGOOD's single contribution on 'Drowning,' which stands as THC's best, and most peculiar, work. Moving through multiple phases, but dominated by a minimalistic palate that uses sparse percussion, 'Drowning' sees the Toronto Jazz band at their peak in rapper collaborations. Even when THC doesn't wow, choosing instead to meander on tracks like 'Fall Through' and 'Love, Robert Horry,' the production thrives thanks to a clear attention to detail.

Even so, at The Healing Component's most tedious moments, like 'Fucked Up Outro' and '1000 Xans,' Jenkins commands the ship with dogged fervor. There's no fluff in his words, no verse that's dialed back. Each track comes equip with impressive wordplay or nuanced flow, leaving virtually no song feeling empty and worthless. For a 14-track debut project, that's an impressive feat. If anything, Jenkins' weakest aspect might be his singing, of which he returns to often. There's no denying it helps to split up the otherwise rapping-obsessive project, but on tracks like 'Strange Love' or 'Fall Through,' his slow, mundane baritone tends to fall flat. Thankfully, a handful of R&B crooners, namely theMIND, who he's worked with often, come through to help diversify the hooks. And speaking of features, there's a Noname one off 'Angles,' and man is it a doozy. For all the dexterity she showed on Telefone, her debut, this hyper-ardor might be her greatest moment. She's a marvel here, flying through fun, light-hearted, but introspective bars with ease. A wonderful distraction to Jenkins' exhaustively deep prose.

However, for how good much of the music contained within The Healing Component is, it's unfortunate that the litany of skits continually stalls the project. I understand the purpose, even going so far as to act out the love discussion, but the bulk of the skits, which center around a conversation between Jenkins and a woman, derail THC with each unclear dialogue. A handful of minutes, including the entirety of 'This Type Love?,' are dedicated to these passages, and THC suffers from it. The message itself is without fault though, and something that will always be grateful in Hip-Hop. Even Jenkins has distanced himself further from the street scene, something he talked about on The Water[s], with little mention of violence directly, despite alluding to it in strong instances like 'Drowning.' The sound isn't as direct and obvious, but the album can draw parallels, in regards to objective, to Mac Miller's recently released album The Divine Feminine. They both speak about love, with Jenkins succeeding handily thanks to his commitment to equality and introspective take on inner-worth. A few poor structural decisions aside, The Healing Component sees Jenkins mature once more, with improvements across the board, from his lyricism to his production to his mindset.

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