Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mick Jenkins - Or More; The Frustration Review

For the release of Or More; The Frustration, the second in Mick Jenkins' on-going project Or More, the Chicago rapper unveiled the true purpose behind this mini-series. Detailed in a Soundcloud write-up, Jenkins' true intent was to involve "musical ideas and concepts that are currently inspiring the album's creation process," something that every artist goes through, with various levels of frustration or anxiety, but one that's rarely broadcasted to the public. It's a stimulating concept that provides a purpose to what's otherwise a standard EP. Whereas Or More; The Anxious saw Mick continuing to flirt with his topsy-turvy identity, one that's as reliant on the lyrical street Rap of Nas as it is the peace-pushing swagger of A Tribe Called Quest, the next iteration of the series finds the hardened rapper warping each perspective through the eyes of artists like MF DOOM, Kendrick Lamar, and Tupac. 

What was seen periodically on Anxious comes out in full blast on Frustration, as the production by which Jenkins contends continues to seep further into abstract theories, all the while rapping with a straighter mind and contentious pen. Here, as seen on tracks like 'Same Ol' and 'Rags,' Jenkins' rhyming brings parallels to argumentative emcees who swing a patronizing light towards the genre they hold dearly. 'Same Ol' might be Jenkins' clearest message to date. Sickened by the perpetual state of Hip-Hop being about "bitches, money, and drugs," his parodying viewpoint draws comparisons to the first three tracks off Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly in which K.Dot assumes the role of an ignorant, money-blowing, 15-minute star. 'Same Ol' does find a partner in follow-up 'Rags,' wherein Jenkins criticizes the trendy, soon-to-be irrelevant attire of various fashionable rappers, and, to a lesser extent, 'Cry If You Want,' which features the descriptive acronym FYP ("Fuck your party") that defines the purpose of the song quite well. These grievances towards those around him is at the heart of Frustration, a far cry from the compassion and understanding he once heralded on The Healing Component. This transition could be seen as hypocritical, or disingenuous, or just the natural progression of an artist finally witnessing the unpleasant truths around him.

In the middle of the EP, Jenkins begins waxing poetic in unusual ways over the quirky beats found on '6AM Matinee' and 'Earl Sweatshirt Type Beat' (hilarious title, by the way). Both represent some of Frustration's best, as Jenkins maintains his stance as a no-nonsense rapper capable of toying with rhyme schemes and flow patterns. The former in particular constantly engages the listener with an elaborate and knotty beat from ENG Creation before switching to ill-mastered cartoonery from HNIC that certainly bears resemblance to DOOM's production tendencies. A few tracks, like 'Go Time' and 'Walk Different,' fail to make a statement, choosing instead to ride off Jenkins' aimless lyrical ability which, while engaging and fun, rarely amounts to something thought-provoking. Considering these two amount to some of Frustration's worst is a testament to Jenkins' progression as an artist. 

However, a monumental setback occurs with the closing track 'Blessed Assurance.' For every contrarian action Jenkins took on the previous tracks, the unordinary Drake biting (courtesy of R&B singer Sean Deaux), strained and contrived bass line, and reliance on supplementing drug culture, retroactively mitigates his persistence to speaking the truth. Not only does it come out of nowhere, not just for Frustration but Jenkins' entire catalogue, 'Blessed Assurance' is easily the worst track featured on the project. A sour ending to what's otherwise another strong collection of ideas. Just leave that one on the cutting room floor.

No comments:

Post a Comment