[INTERVIEW] MICK JENKINS
After nearly a year and a half hiatus (not a full hiatus but a half hiatus because we got some music and features), one of the most important rappers of our generation is back with his new project titled ‘Pieces of a Man.’ Lyrically speaking Mick Jenkins has been ahead of his time for a while now.
The 27-year-old artist from Chicago paints vivid pictures with his words about a variety of situations, feelings and emotions we go through on a day to day basis. Mick Jenkins poetically discusses the average man’s thought processes and problems.
I had the pleasure to catch up with him a few days before the release of his new project. We discussed Soundcloud, his relationships with Katytranda as well as his personal beliefs and the pressures of the music industry. Check out the interview below and make sure you go and listen to the new project ‘Pieces of a Man.’
What is the meaning of pieces of a man?
Just as simple as it sounds. It could definitely be broken down into a couple different things. I think there’s a lot to unpack but essentially it is pieces of me. Pieces of what makes up Jason Jenkins as a person and then I’m speaking to certain things about myself that the average man can identify with, especially the average black man. Things the stereotypical man would have to deal with. So like on ‘Pull Up’ we’re talking about, in a harsh way, dead weight friends that are around simply because you love them and you fuck with them. And the nuances of how they might interrupt or hold you back and how you feel about that. ‘Consensual seduction’ we’re talking about [things] concerning stress factors, we’re talking about a young man who may not be reflective and handling his emotions in the proper ways and these are things that stereotypically people feel men suffer from on a regular basis and things that personally I’ve had to address in my own way. It definitely has a little inspiration from Gil Scott ‘Heron.’ Not specifically that album but just the title and the speeches I was listening too in the creation process by him. So there’s definitely some loose themes from that, that are thrown throughout the music as well and like I said, I think ultimately there’s just a lot to unpack.
When you dropped ‘Waves’ there was a slight change in the energy of your music. ‘Waves’ felt like a vibe project and that contrasted with the music you released beforehand. You then went back to the grittier, more lyrical music on the projects to follow. Was there a reason for that and is ‘Pieces of a man’ heading back to the staple Mick Jenkins energy?
Somewhat. I think that the reaction to ‘The Healing Component’ and why definitely influenced some of the musical direction with ‘Pieces of a Man.’ And you know same with ‘Bruce Banner’ and ‘What Am I To Do.’ Personally, even though I have people in my own circle who don’t necessarily agree with me personally. I feel like people think I can’t do that because I made ‘Waves’, because of the way ‘The Healing Component’ was. People feel like I ”lost it.” I don’t really feel like those are people who are listening but those are things I heard and I just wanted to concentrate on [doing] what I was trying to do on ‘The Healing Component’ not just with the message but with the music, the sound, and bring it closer to what people are trying to hear. I think this music has a higher replay value and that was something that was a considered effort by me. But to say where and why it definitely has a lot more to do with the things I heard as a response and not just where I’m moving from specifically from my heart. But again with that, I made so much music since the last time y’all heard a complete body of work from me. I got a lot of stuff going on. Stuff was created in that way back then when it seems like I was just jumping around but that’s just how we put the projects together. There are just tons of all different types of music in the vault at any given time. So it’s just a creative process ultimately. But I’m not going to act like I wasn’t responding to what I heard people say.
We’ve seen a huge shift in the power that streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify hold. A lot of your music is on Soundcloud and there are arguments out there to say that Soundcloud is dying as a platform. What does Soundcloud mean to you?
I know Soundcloud has always been important to my career. I feel like that’s where we got a start. I would never stop using Soundcloud personally. I still use Soundcloud, I still find artists via Soundcloud. There’s still a lot of stuff to be discovered on Soundcloud. Whenever we’re trying to get something out a lot faster than the conventional DSV’s will allow we’ll go through Soundcloud and it’s convenient. They are absolutely still doing that for a lot of people. So that’s how I feel about them. That’s where their place has fallen. I used to hold them in a higher regard just because I didn’t have access to the DSV’s I do now but that doesn’t take away from anything that they do and how they’ve impacted us being able to release music at all. They’re still doing that right now. I think they have a place. I don’t really understand the numbers and the metric behind how it’s going down but whenever stuff like that happens we’re just forced to do whatever the market is trying to do. It’s unfortunate but shit is tough (chuckles).
Do you believe in the law of attraction and speaking things into existence?
Yeah, to a certain degree I believe in stuff like that. My beliefs are rooted in Christ and God and the bible. I think that there’s a lot of stuff that people just kind of give to the craze of the universe and if you just replace universe with God then I feel the same way. I definitely believe that you put shit out and it comes back. Good karma and stuff like that. I have different principles that align with exactly the same shit so I would say that I do believe in that stuff. There’s so much shit that I hear about the universe, the universe. Literally if you just took universe and put God there it’s the same thing. So it’s like ‘are we saying the same thing?’ I don’t know, but I vibe with people like that so I don’t really look at it too [much]. I just want to be clear in what I’m saying, but yeah I feel the same way a lot of the time.
Do you feel pressured by the current climate to conform?
Yeah, I think that’s a part of what living is. Trying to stay on the right path, straight and narrow. Feel pressured all the time to do shit. I try not to succumb, you know I even speak about that on a record. I said ”I was thrifting, now it’s Barney’s it’s that newer mink” I said ” I was speaking on the humble in the conversation. Who would think that I still copped a Cuban link. It was thrifting, now it’s Barney’s it’s that newer mink.” Self reflecting, I’ve definitely made decisions based off of silly shit. Based off of conforming, based off of trying to please, trying to please, trying to prove, whatever from that those motives. And it’s just like that’s a constant battle whether in a large way or significant way or a small way. Whether it’s something that people see from Mick or it’s something only I’m aware of. You’ve got to hold yourself to a certain standard and I’m constantly trying to do that and I definitely see how I’m tempted and know the ways and my vices and how I can fall into conformity and trying to do shit for other people and not for myself and my salvation. I feel like you’re not telling the truth or you’ve reached a higher place if you don’t have something like that, that you struggle with or you’re tempted by. So I just try my best to not conform to that and I think that with the way I speak in my music and the way I live, people can see that I’m relatively decent at that…(chuckles).
What about musically? Do you feel pressured by the current musical climate?
Yeah I mean that’s just how much you care to listen to the fans and critics and all of that and I do to a certain degree. Do I feel the pressure-yeah, because it’s their and I’m in the environment and I’m in the culture. I feel it. I talk to my fans. I stay after my shows for an hour and sit outside. Yeah I feel it. Do I react to it? Do I respond to it all the time? Do I do what people want? No, but I definitely feel it. Like I said, it’s definitely a part of why I made some of the decisions for some of the records to go on ‘Pieces of a Man.’ So, yeah especially with the frequency of the way music is coming out. I think that’s a big part of what I was focusing on in this past year and a half. When we were trying to get everything together for this album and for post this album. Making sure that I won’t ever have a year and a half gap if I don’t want to. Making sure that I won’t ever be forced into a gap because I gotta try hurry up and make music. I definitely put myself in a position where we’re ahead in that regards now and that’s a direct result of feeling the pressure. ”Damn these people are digesting music a lot faster, cycling through music a lot faster and what am I gonna do about it?”
You’ve got a good relationship with Kaytranada. Did he do any production on the new project?
Absolutely. Multiple records. It’s a great marriage man. Most of the time he doesn’t even have to cycle through many beats before we chose one. It’s crazy people don’t know this but we have never really got to sit down and just create for hours-ever. Something is always happening that makes it less than what we want to to be so the most efficient way is to going through a lot the shit that he already has because he has so much. And the reality is that works so well because it works so well every fucking time! Every time we’ll be like damn this shit’s fucking fire!! So it’s just cool to be able to come through and knock out shit with somebody like that. But like I said on twitter the other day, I talked to him about doing a project and even myself I’m so excited for what it would be to actually sit down for days and really dig something out. Just when we link up for two/three hours at a time we produce some pretty amazing shit. I appreciate it man. I’m glad he fucks with me, I fuck with him heavy. My management, culturally we’ve got the same background so it would be pretty easy to rock with him and fuck with him on a personal level as well. Pretty cool dude man.