In the midst of a wide dichotomy that has seeped into the Chicago hip-hop and rap music scene, we are seeing more and more artists coming out to not only make their mark, but to also make it crystal clear which side they are playing for. The drill scene emerged from the gritty and hardened roots of Chicago’s South and West side, tales of gun violence and life in crime ridden hoods told by the likes of Chief Keef and Katie Got Bandz. The new subgenre gained much success and revere after consignation from Chicago native Kanye West and has taken the local radio scene by storm. But on the equal and opposite side of the spectrum, we have the story being told in a different and some may even say, more poised form. “I know drill people. I know that life. I grew up next to those people… We just make different music”, says South Side rapper Mick Jenkins in a recent article from Red Bull Music. Jenkins, presenting a well cleaned up appearance matched with his massive stature takes aim to drive the precision and urgency of his lyricism into the very subconscious of his listeners. Still on the rise, Jenkins gain ground during his earlier works with SaveMoney artists such as Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper on the track “Crossroads” and with West side rapper Saba, a member of Pivot Gang. However, not many were to anticipate the fire he would ignite with the release of his mixtape The Water[s] back in August. The title suggests just what the tape does: 15 tracks that quenched the thirst of the listener and replenished the starving mind of intellect and brilliancy that the hip hop industry has been so desperately craving. The tape begins with the eerie instrumental of waves passing through a sea, keeping with the theme and reminiscing of possibility a reference to days of the slave trade. Jenkins comes out of the gate with the wordplay that tangles the tongue and ultimately peeks the interest enough to focus in on the craft of the lyricism on the opening track “Shipwrecked”. The chorus of the title track “The Waters” highlights the paramount intention of the artist “Water more important than the gold, people for the gold, everybody do it for the gold, people sell your soul…thank God for the waters, waters, thank God”, to illustrate the current and predominant psyche of modern society; the relentless preoccupation with wealth and power (gold) matched with the equal and undermining neglect and devalue of the essential life components (waters). Bringing attention to the most important facets of the dysfunctions of the society, through a high level of rhetoric puts this young artist in a caliber above many of his counterparts easily. Another track of strong importance is “Dehydration”, a track faded in closer toward the end of the album. This track, along with its video, produces the chilling revelations of the intensity and urgency of gun violence that has developed in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago. The grunt and anger in Jenkins voice matched with lyrics such as “…I keep a pistol and the Bible if they try me, I ain’t no killer but guarantee that they’ll see God here (I know you know), I know that I’m wrong, but the Chi is all I’ve known (I know you know), You could break my bones, they won’t take my throne, it will always be my home” exemplifies the resiliency of Chicago residents that have experience the mass murders and slayings due to senseless gang violence over and over again, presenting the reality of the consequences rather than numbness to the issue. Featured artists on this tape supplement the composition well, such as fellow Chicago rapper NoName Gypsy and member of the renown Brooklyn collective Pro Era, Joey Bada$$, adding a decent splash of spunk to the closing track “Jerome”. Overall, this release was one of the more thought provoking and reviving of the year, far beyond its namesake. Jenkins takes rhetorical language, wordplay and the entendre to another level beyond its current commercial confines and creates a clever level of imagery that is difficult to master or imitate with the same grace. Chicagoans or hip hop lovers in general will want to listen to this if they have not already for an honest refreshment in artistry.
Best Track(s): “Dehydration” & “The Waters”
Best Production: “Shipwrecked” & “Martyrs”