A Poor-Mans Kendrick Lamar?

A Conversation Between My Roommate Andrew and I:

“I don’t like albums that try to be so ambitious, you know? Like, I’ve even grown more skeptical of [Kendrick Lamar’s] To Pimp a Butterfly recently.”

“But don’t you think he was mostly successful?”

“Yes, but it’s so hard to pull that off. Not everyone is good enough do something that big”

“So is Mick Jenkins just the poor-man’s Kendrick?”

It’s difficult not to consider Kendrick Lamar’s recent masterpiece “To Pimp a Butterfly” when listening to the new Mick Jenkins’ record The Healing Component. Both share a sense of the grandiose, engage with universal concepts of love and hate, and deliver both party bangers and commentary on racial and social issues.

Unfortunately there is a stark contrast between the two, and it can be easily observed even in the brief transitions between songs. Whereas Lamar delivers and develops an abstract poem-not-poem, Jenkins immediately violates the classic “show, don’t tell” rule by literally saying “we need more love.” Ugh. As a listener, it was quite off-putting to hear Jenkins use the spaces between tracks to simply wax philosophically. His conversation partner on the intro said it best: “No, no, no, I don’t wanna hear about it!” I respect his ambition in taking on possibly the most popular song theme of all time (love), but unfortunately he doesn’t approach in a nuanced enough way.

Have you seen “Punch-Drunk Love”? I had mixed feelings about the film but one scene stuck with me. Adam Sandler and Emily Watson’s characters exchange sweet nothings in bed: “I’m lookin’ at your face and I just wanna smash it. I just wanna fuckin’ smash it with a sledgehammer and squeeze it. You’re so pretty. I want to chew your face, and I want to scoop out your eyes and I want to eat them and chew them and suck on them.” This quote highlights precisely the sort of of detail and perspective that Jenkins fails to touch on. Artists should express things we’re too afraid to say in our everyday lives. Artists should take risks and to put it simply, be weird. The only line that truly caught my ear on this record was “It’s the light for the evils like a fucking patronus.” Jenkins at least has the best Harry Potter reference I’ve heard in modern hip-hop since Young Thug’s “Harry Potter with a broom / Drinkin’ on lean, eatin’ shrooms.”

Maybe I shouldn’t rip on this album so hard, but at the same time mediocrity often feels like the most insidious form of bad art. NoName Gypsy is one of the highlights of this album, matching the intensity she blew up with on Chance the Rapper’s “Lost” on “Angles.” There are touches of Miguel’s sensual melodicism, detailed attention to production, and hooks that occasionally get me nodding along. Jenkins’s collaboration with neo-jazz-whiteguy-instrumental-hiphoppers BADBADNOTGOOD takes a turn for the interesting with a James Brown-esque section, but unfortunately mostly serves to remind me that Mick Jenkins is to modern hip-hop what BBNG are to modern jazz: a mildly interesting and mostly forgettable variation on the same old tune. Don’t even get me started on the whole THC thing.

 

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