In the current rap climate, Mick Jenkins came in as somewhat of a dark horse. Often deep and philosophical, Jayson Mick Jenkins is every lyrical hip-hop fan’s dream. His layered metaphors and clever wordplay, along with his deep and brooding voice, grab the listener’s attention, but it’s his messages that keep them there. On his second album, “Pieces of a Man,” which was released on Oct. 26, his appeal is in full effect. Using the title from poet Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 debut studio album, Jenkins wants to show the pieces that make up the artist he is.
It’s quite fitting that Jenkins named his album the same title as that of a poet because his rapping reads more like poetry than bars. Heron has had a massive influence on hip-hop, referred to by many as “the godfather of rap.” Jenkins hails from Chicago and broke out around the same time as other rising Chicago artists such as Chance the Rapper, Noname and Saba, who are all a part of the recent wave of poetic, socially aware hip-hop in Chicago. On his last album, “The Healing Component,” Jenkins wanted to share the message of self-love and spreading love. On his tape that garnered recognition in the rap scene, “The Water[s],” Jenkins takes on multiple topics, but has the central theme of water and its therapeutic and healing qualities. This time, Jenkins has even more on his mind.
Jenkins covers many topics that relate to himself and society throughout this new album. On “Consensual Seduction,” Jenkins raps about the joys of having consensual sex, a timely and very interesting viewpoint for a rap song, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement. “Never have to force facts, the vibe in the room as thick as a short stack / Still I don’t make a move until shorty endorse that,” Jenkins raps. He talks about religion (also a point of focus in his last album) as well in “Grace & Mercy,” where he thanks God for the blessings that were given to him: “Wake up thanking God for these brand new mercys / On my knees, said a prayer caught a blessing.”
A highlight on the album is the song “Ghost,” where he spends most of the track rapping about never really going out and being focused on his craft. “You never really see me out / I be on the road / Or I be in the crib / When I’m not on the road I’m workin’ on my penmanship,” Jenkins raps on the hook. The song (and most of the album) is backed by beautiful jazz production. The album does take some detours from that sound, like on the Kaytranada-produced “Understood,” where Jenkins shows off his rapping ability over a smooth, breezy, laid-back beat. Another highlight is “Gwendolynn’s Apprehension” (based off a poem by another black poet, Gwendolynn Brooks), where Jenkins spits over a bouncy, bubbly, dreamlike beat.
Mick Jenkins’ last album seemed to be focused on the world around him and how we love each other (or don’t), whereas this album feels more personal. Even the moments where he may make a statement about society, it’s anchored through an experience he’s had/having, such as the aforementioned song about consensual sex. On “Pieces of a Man,” Jenkins takes a deep look inside and creates one of his most well-rounded and cohesive projects in a while. I’d give it an 8/10, definitely worth a listen. You can find it on all streaming platforms.