In Re­view: Mick Jenk­ins’s “The Heal­ing Com­po­nent”

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By JOE ANTOSHAK

jan­toshak@ches­pub.com

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.”

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