In Review: Mick Jenkins’s “The Healing Component”
Not many people love anything as much as Mick Jenkins loves water. Ever since the 25-year-old Chicago rapper aligned himself as one of the genre’s most socially-conscious young artists with 2014’s “The Water[s]” mixtape, he’s been doubling down on his penchant for musical activism, especially as it connects to water as a symbol.
His debut full-length album, “The Healing Component,” which comes out this Friday, shows an older, wiser Jenkins exploring themes of love and forgiveness in a similar vein. Water hasn’t gone anywhere — for instance, the video for the song “Drowning” stars Jenkins as a runaway slave who eventually overthrows his two white masters and chooses to cast them out on a raft in a placid creek, rather than have a fellow slave drown them in it.
If you haven’t gotten the sense yet, Jenkins is a highly political rapper, and “The Healing Component” is entrenched in recent American turbulence. Like his Chicago contemporary Chance the Rapper, he’s a proponent of optimism and of challenging the definition of black masculinity. But Jenkins is far less excitable than Chance, and much groggier.
On “Drowning,” he groans, “When the real hold you down you supposed to drown, right? / Wait, wait, that don’t sound right.”
At times, Jenkins feels like a slightly less tragic kindred spirit to Isaiah Rashad, the 25-year-old rapper signed to Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q), who released his own debut full-length “The Sun’s Tirade” earlier this month. Both deal with com- plicated issues of identity, but where Rashad’s ultimate theme seems to be a by-nomeans-forever conquering of addiction and self-destruction, Jenkins’s comes across as a more sustainable understanding of how to navigate the treacherous waters of racial expectations in the United States.
“The Healing Component” begins with an interlude about the definition of the album’s concept, also referred to as “THC,” a play on the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Then on the twoand-a-half-minute interlude “This Type Love?” Jenkins questions whether he can love people differently, and seems to decide that he can. He shows himself as an openly sensitive man without worrying about hits to his respectability as a rapper.
At its core, this is a record about self-reflection and criticism and growth. Jenkins shows unerring confidence in the execution of the album itself, but backtracks at a near-constant rate within the content. It’s as if he’s coming to us in a state of external confusion, from which he’s decided to explore himself, only to find the same confusion there.
On “1000 Xanz,” he raps, “I mean I’m only smoking weed because I’m stressing heavy. / All this water in me. / I just pray the Lord will bless my levees. / Lessons let me know I shouldn’t be so careless. / In some circles misconceptions make them think my inspiration’s herbal. / It’s not. / I mean sometimes it is.”
And “The Healing Component” is full of these twists and turns. Jenkins is a highly competent, comfortable rapper, and the production is smooth throughout. Standout songs include “Spread Love,” “Communicate” and “Angles,” which features a dominant verse from Noname, another Chicago rapper whose mixtape “Telefone,” released earlier this year, has solidified her position as a top up-andcomer as well.
Just listen to what Jenkins says about his community on “F---ed Up Outro”: “We don’t die, we multiply. / But you knew that already.” The Chicago rap scene is very, very strong, and Jenkins is among the best.
But you don’t have to think of him so highly as that. He doesn’t mind. In the same song, he later raps, “If you don’t give me credit for nothing but making kids in Chicago drink more water, I proved that already. / I’m someone with influence who will use that to better the youth.”
And there lies his liberation.
A YouTube screenshot from Mick Jenkins’s music video for the song “Drowning.”