Jenkins’ 2014 EP, The Waters, may have been one of the more powerful projects I remember listening to during the idle doldrums of my lifeguard shifts. I remember opening up the front gate to the swimming pool with earbuds plugged, listening to tracks such as Vibe and Comfortable. The project itself received a good amount of notoriety for Jenkins’ poignant call for mental peace over undulating and even heartwarming production. The ripples of the pool water coalesced perfectly with the flowing tonality of the album, track after track.
After The Waters, Jenkins accrued industry recognition from a growing fan base, as well as the likes of musicians such as Montreal Disc Jockey Kaytranada and the young Jazz group BadBadNotGood. This eventually led to his surmise of collaborations with conventional artists, as well as the album Wave(s) in 2015 and The Healing Component in 2016. Jenkins’ has taken advantage of his path for the past half a decade now. Through the obstacles and learning curves of his career, he’s managed to adapt to different sounds and noises, but still, keep them under his eye.
Besides his lyricism, Jenkins is well known by the smooth, nubiferous production he tends to choose for his storytelling. It seems that A Tribe Called Quest has had a major influence on artists such as Jenkins or Isaiah Rashad of Top Dawg Entertainment. Much of the sampled material here involves serene guitar strings along with nocturnal sound rummaging with modernized basslines. Mick Jenkins tends to take that formula and splices the elements to manifest something new and familiar at the same time.
Jenkins does that well with Pieces of a Man. Through varying noises and blips of a narrative, the album, as stated by the title, sheds bits and pieces of his stories into these scattered tracks. Pieces of a Man contains seventeen songs strategically arranged but melodically fluid. Each track has a different spell that speaks to the listener, submitting him or her into a section of the whole journey.
The starting track, Heron Flow, featuring Julian Bell, has Jenkins pontificating the introduction of his supposed organization in a similar style that Erykah Badu would seem to expel, which follows Bell’s Jazz entourage. In Jenkins’ spoken word session, he talks about the ebonic phrase “dot dot dit dit dot dot dash.” He vaguely reinstates this phrase as a verbal or written presentation of something that Black communities have managed to grasp at some point, but slowly lost their grip over time.
Though this vague connotation and the surly Jazz session, the track Stress Fracture, featuring musician Mikahl Anthony, ensues right after. Although a simple two-step, Hip Hop beat, the sound of it retrieves a hypnotic feeling with the added chords that repeat along with the beat. Jenkins slowly but surely portrays a vignette of his current lifestyle in this song. He speaks about his current mindstate without referring to his previous thought process before his ignited fame.
“When vantage points don’t get expanded.
They offer you anecdotes based on the man you were.
More than the man that you plan to be.”
The track after, Gwendolyn’s Apprehension, Jenkins uses an interesting alliteration technique. Inspired by Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ allitertion technique in her piece We Real Cool, Jenkins emulates her intonation by using her “we cool, we” phrase into the chorus. After the chorus, Jenkins uses the theme of teenage petulance in his own narrative. In the song, he expands about the petulance witnessed in modern youth.
He’ll speak about the efforts by below-average musicians that try hard to make it with their craft, all while retorting their claims of undermining his craft.
“They gon’ see for themselves, know I told you so.
Can’t teach a young nigga, he don’t want to know.
Could be a flower, he don’t want to grow.”
On the song Reginald, which features Ben Hixon, Jenkins uses wittiness to attract a same-old story told throughout Hip-Hop’s history. Although, the technique itself is now worn out, but revitalized with clever poetic notches. Jenkins is yet again talking about lower-end rappers but instead focuses on his progression against the false claims and representations.
“Connections will get you brought up in conversation.
You basing everything you know about me from moments.
I’m more of a compilation of composition it’s complicated.”
My personal favorite track is Plain Clothes. Not necessarily due to Jenkins’ lyricism, but the musical vibrations from this song resonates so well with the music that Jenkins represents. The sound is smooth with indefinite influence from A Tribe Called Quest and perhaps the production from Isaiah Rashad’s recent works. Either or, the song could be just another lyrical form of flaunting.
This doesn’t really seem to be an issue with me. The sound quality from this album overall is top notch and added with Jenkins’ increasingly eloquent wordplay, there is a special sedation that not many other artists don’t commit to today.