by Christian Triunfo
Mick Jenkins is meticulous. He takes his time. In 2016, he performed to a sold-out crowd at the Middle East in Cambridge. Two years later, and he’s performing to a sold-out crowd again, at the same venue (now featuring one less creep). Some would say that this is a prime example of a stagnant artist, or of an artist that failed to take off when the time was right. Usually, I’d agree. But it doesn’t seem like Mick Jenkins sights are set on rap stardom or reaching A-list status.
theMIND performs at the Middle East Downstairs. Photo by Chris Triunfo for WRBB.
Jenkins has slowly but surely pumped out consistent projects since the release of his critically-acclaimed mixtape The Water[s]. And although his studio albums have yet to surpass that mixtape, there is an underlying method to his slow madness. It is rare to see an artist in 2019 who has stayed on the same page for over five years. Messages evolve, cultures are renovated, artists change who they are. But all this time, sitting behind the scenes, is Mick Jenkins, spreading messages of self-care and self-love, all the while propped up by one of the most faithful fanbases I have ever seen.
Attendees at Jenkins’ Friday-night concert rapped his lyrics at him instead of with him. During a brief interlude in which Jenkins stepped off stage, fans even demonstrated their passion by reciting a deep cut from Jenkins’ right-hand man and producer, theMIND, who fed off of the crowd’s energy to the point where he was dripping with sweat and hunching over to catch his breath.
As for Jenkins, his most recent visit to the Middle East was his most eloquent and relaxed. He’s stepping away from all the bangers, and focusing more on a new style of ballad that seems exclusive to Chicago rapper like Noname, Jenkins and Chance the Rapper. Full of messages of validity and inclusivity, Jenkins dominated the crowd with his words, barely moving or jumping around on stage. Occasionally, he’d take a knee and look meditatively into the eyes of somebody in the crowd.
As he finished his encore performance, Jenkins smiled as he said, “I know it takes time, but new music is coming at you real soon.”