The Lowdown: It’s been two years since Mick Jenkins released his debut album, The Healing Component. Since then, the Chicago rapper has moved on from pitching love to the world in order to address deep societal issues, especially those that affect black people. On his 17-track sophomore album, Pieces of a Man, the rapper makes it easy to absorb his words as he spreads them over a blend of mellow sounds.
The Good: On this project, Jenkins shows he is a lyrical beast — a true wordsmith. As a matter of fact, his deep, honest words are the highlight of this album. He sets the bar high on the exemplary “Ghost”, spitting: “They couldn’t fuck with the vision/ ‘n’ now you see me in vintage frames/ Percentage rose when the interest came/ All the hate just fanned a bigger flame.” He also implements his signature clever wordplay on “Padded Locks” as he raps: “Even you duck, duck goose neck, your Canada Goose wet.”
One can’t help but fall in love with the intro of this album, “Heron Flow” (featuring Julian Bell). On the track, he begins like an artist who knows he’s about to snatch the souls of listeners with his lyrics. He starts by saying: “My name, of course, is Mick Jenkins … and we are here this evening to give you some free thought. Some food for thought.” Meanwhile, on “Gwendolynn’s Apprehension”, he continues to spread the wisdom: “Can’t teach and young nigga, he don’t want to know/ Could be a flower, he don’t want to grow.” As most rappers his age aim to draw attention to themselves, Jenkins opts to focus on the message and the audience who needs to hear it most.
The Bad: The 27-year-old is having a blast and as creative as ever, but Pieces of a Man lacks enough tracks that are automatic repeats. While Jenkins’ aim isn’t to create songs that will have people twerking and milly rocking, more engaging hooks would have made many of these songs even more memorable. Tunes like “Plain Clothes”, “U Turn”, and “Grace and Mercy”, for all their merits, can easily be forgotten.
The Verdict: There is always so much to unpack on each project Mick Jenkins drops. From his alliterative rhyme patterns to his wonderfully woven metaphors and his thought-provoking words, Jenkins finds creative ways to keep the audience glued to his music. One secret (yet not so secret) ingredient that makes his words glow are the various sounds fused into the beats. He acknowledges this as he attacks KAYTRANADA’s gleaming beats on “Padded Locks”: “Somebody put me on a leash/ I’m buckin’ wild like the AK ’cause it came from KAYTRA”. On other tunes like “Ghost”, “Soft Porn”, and “Understood”, one can predict his smooth delivery from the foundation the beat lays for his bars.
Pieces of a Man might not be what you whistle to in the bathroom or what you have on repeat for days, but Mick Jenkins’ lyrical and creative performance make this an album that you’ll need to return to.
Essential Tracks: “Ghost”, “Padded Locks”, and “Gwendolynn’s Apprehension”