mick jenkins’ fantastically whole ‘pieces of a man’

October 26, 2018

It’s no coincidence that Mick Jenkins has named his excellent second album, Pieces of a Man, same as the sophomore record by the mighty Gil Scott-Heron. And in case you miss that reference, there’s even more direct invocation of the legendary Black musical griot/poet-laureate/activist in the titles of the album-opening and mid-album-break tracks — “Heron Flow” and “Heron Flow 2” — both of which pit Mick, bringing his rapping voice an octave lower, in front of an audience, flowing a capella not as an MC but as a storyteller. They offer “some food for thought” about “The Man” and “how we quantify the whole of the man by what he looks like…in the light.”

Pieces of a Man by Mick Jenkins

There’s no heresy to this gifted Chicago MC with the poetic mind invoking one of 20th century Black America’s most popular and on-point musical soothsayers, because on Pieces of a Man, Jenkins’ aspirations of following in Gil’s footsteps are largely coming true. Mick’s done the work — whether at Chicago’s incredible Young Chicago Authors program where he began as an open-mic performer, as well as on previous records (personal highlights: 2016’s “Drowning” with BadBadNotGood, 2014’s “Jazz”) – and, at the moment, his feels like the statement of someone applying a lifetime’s worth of learnings. The soul and the consciousness, the blunts and the bullshit, the rapping dookie and its more word-direct cousin — Pieces of a Man, largely helmed by local production crew/artist circle, THEMpeople, combines all of these, never lingering too long.

For those looking for hot features, there’s a couple of non-rollerskating tracks by Kaytranada, one of which is a sparkling duet with Ghosface Killah that features some Shaolin Tr*mp clapback. The British soul chanteuse Corinne Bailey Rae strolls into “Consensual Seduction” and bring hardcore New Amerykah vibes with her. There’s excellent work by Dallas’ Dolfin Records mainstay Ben Hixon — one of which, “U Turn,” is a glorious party anthem in these parts. And the closing “Smoking Song,” with Canadian jazzbos BadBadNotGood, bringing the impeccable improv energy that bears another reminder of Gil, and of the fact there’s so much left to say. Really looking forward to Mick getting a chance to say it.