Mick Jenkins Is Solidified As One of Hip-Hop’s Most Consistent Artists

For a stretch in the 2010s, the entire internet had Mick Jenkins fever: or, more specifically, The Water (s) fever. Coming up with the Free Nation collective, Mick’s brand of smooth, introspective rapping fit right into the Chicago scene. It was a good time to be a fan, with phenomenal projects by artists such as Joey Purp, Vic Mensa, TheMind, Saba, Noname, and of course, Chance the Rapper dropping on a yearly basis, and The Water (s) was right there with the best of them.

While all of these artists had conscious, jazzy material that ran counter to the dominant Chicago drill scene, Mick would add an additional wrinkle through his vague, pseudointellectual themes of love, water, and weed as healing components; yet it somehow never came across as corny or unjustifiably preachy.

Prior to The Water (s) was actually a string of other mixtapes that were released to far less fanfare, including The Mickstape and Trees & Truths, where he really came into his own on a conceptual level. Succeeding The Water (s), however, was a strange narrative against his new projects where listeners deemed it impossible to top. For reference, The Water (s) has more than twice as many ratings on rateyourmusic.com than any of his others, and features many of his most popular tracks, such as “Jazz” and “Martyrs“.

Mick Jenkins – Drowning

While The Water (s) is certainly amazing and arguably his best project, it sadly seems to cast a shadow over an otherwise amazing body of work. His debut studio album The Healing Component is often lambasted as his worst project and a major fall off, when in fact, it’s at least a solid project. Mick Jenkins upped the scope of his concepts and enlisted star producers such as BadBadNotGood, Sango, Monte Booker, and Kaytranada (a frequent duo that many still hope collab for a full album), making for a bouncier listen with all of the ambition of his best.

2018 would mark a small comeback for Mick with the release of Pieces of a Man, his smoothest and most directly personal project yet. Tracks such as “Gwendolynn’s Apprehension” and “Understood” brought wider acclaim and a spotlight back to Mick, but for whatever reason, hardly anybody would be found calling it his best or an album of the year contender. The pattern would continue with The Circus and 2021’s Elephant in the Room, where, despite Mick’s ever evolving artistry and rapping and songwriting as strong as ever, many couldn’t stay invested in these projects.

Mick Jenkins – Show & Tell (feat. Freddie Gibbs)

Thankfully, the cycle seems to have been broken with the release of Mick’s new album, The Patience. The discourse surrounding its release widely points to it as his best in years, while many are dissenting and attempting to bring some shine to his past underrated albums. The Patience features favorites such as Freddie Gibbs and JID, which surely brought some eyes, but Mick’s actual pen game and emceeing on there is as hungry as he was coming out.

It’s a proud moment for devoted fans, and is seemingly redefining Mick Jenkins as more than “the guy that made The Water (s)” – and he says as much on the album’s outro, that he doesn’t need all the acclaim when he can dominate this niche. It’s not so much that he’s underrated, just that people loved his first project so much that the bar was set unreasonably high.

Whether you rank him as highly as someone like Big K.R.I.T. or not, he’s solidified as one of the finest products of the Chicago scene and one of the most consistently strong performers in hip-hop over the past decade.

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