Last year, amidst all of the disappointment the rap game offered up (although 2015 has redeemed that and then some), Mick Jenkins was a silver lining. His mixtape entitled “The Water[s]” is far and away my favorite hip-hop project from last year, which truthfully, isn’t saying much, but it really was an extremely impressive release. On it, Mick used water as a metaphor for a lot of things, namely truth and love, and came across as technically proficient and thought provoking to go along with some incredibly smooth, watery, and jazzy production. Mick honestly seemed poised to become one of the very best rappers out there. However, though “Wave[s]” is by no means a bad release, it can’t help but feel like a step back for the Chicago MC.
Lyrically, Mick noticeably is not as thought provoking as he was on “The Water[s]”. He still comes through with the water theme, constantly reminding us to drink more of it, and also once again using the clear piss metaphor that he already used many times last year. However, instead of it coming across as unique, it actually feels like a crutch that Mick will just occasionally fall back on when he has nothing else to say, and this makes the tape seem a little repetitive lyrically. That is, when he’s actually rapping. For much of this project, Mick is singing, as these songs are very hook/bridge orientated instead of verse focused. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but the lack of standout melodies on many of the tracks here just make me wish for more rapping. The one track where I can say this paid off though is “40 Below”, where the beat and melodies that Mick throws out there are bold and catchy, and he actually comes through with some impressive singing.
There is one track in particular that does remind us why Mick is a great MC, and that is “P’s and Q’s”. On it, nearly every word he says begins with either a P or a Q, which of course leads to some stunning alliteration and is just a great display of technical skill. When something calls to mind “Reasonable Doubt” Jay-Z (in particular, “22 Two’s”), you know you’re doing something right.
Beat wise, this tape also is not as impressive as “The Water[s]”. While that tape really made you feel like you were submerged in water, and came across as extremely unique, “Wave[s]” lacks the cohesion of that project, and a ton of the quality as well. The beat to “Slumber” is annoyingly messy, and the beat to “Get Up Get Down” is just kind of boring. That’s not to say that the beats here are terrible, but some of them have par for the course rhythms and sounds, like “Piano”, or or just not interesting, like “The Giver”. (The worst song here, mainly due to Mick’s repetitive hook.) The only beat that come through as “The Water[s]” worthy is the opener, “Alchemy”, which conjures up that same underwater feel, and also features some beautiful tones providing the melody. Also, there is the Neptunes inspired “Your Love”, which is very different in terms of style for Mick, and features a kind of infectious synth funk groove, and if it wasn’t for Mick’s repetitive hook, this would be a really great track.
For all of the complaining I’m doing, “Wave[s]” is still a decent output, and over the course of its short 9 track run, does feature some good songs, like the aforementioned “Alchemy”, “P’s & Q’s”, “40 Below”, and “Your Love”. However, coming after “The Water[s]”, I was expecting Mick to keep making strides forward to assert himself as one of the best in the game, and instead, much of this tape feels like a step backwards. A lot of it just feels like a worse “The Water[s]”, which is pretty underwhelming, but due to how great that project was, “Wave[s]” is still pretty OK.
Standout Tracks: “Alchemy” “Your Love” “40 Below” “P’s & Q’s”