Mick Jenkins' music lands on listeners like a weighted blanket. Although the Chicago-based rapper's sound can soothe and relax, it's delivered forcefully, and all but envelops you in its succession of raw imagery and conscious messaging.
Jenkins will be bringing his singular strain of rap to Miami on Wednesday, February 19. He's performing alongside Atlanta duo EarthGang, who, like Jenkins, has been turning heads and making waves as an exciting new force in hip-hop. Despite the two acts' contrasting musical styles, both emphasize stage presence, vocal command, and eye-catching outfits. Jenkins keeps his Instagram feed full of stylish, smart fashion, and will be stunting looks on the Welcome to Mirrorland Tour to keep up with the adventurous presentation of Johnny Venus and Doctor Dot, the titular gang in EarthGang.
“I saw Venus last night and he had a little fit," Jenkins shares with New Times. “I was like, OK, see how it is: [I’ll] have to pull some stuff out.”
With the release of his 2014 mixtape The Water[s], Jenkins stepped into the mainstream spotlight and garnered attention for his poetic and symbolism-laden lyrics. Like all great rappers, he refuses to let his subject matter fall into a single lane: On projects such as The Healing Component, he raps about heartache and working through challenges for the sake of a relationship, while songs like "Carefree" see him address social ills head-on.
Jenkins tells New Times that his lyrics are his way of softening the blow of such hardships. "[The songs] are speaking to something that is very poignant," he says. "You can enjoy it without having to think about that every single time you play the record."
Jenkins’ most recent project, January's The Circus, tackles the manic energy he's walking around with as he grapples with his burgeoning musical career and the already-demanding expectations of modern life.
“I’m in the middle of planning a wedding, I’m about to move across the country, I’m doing a tour, I’m trying to drop an album, I just dropped an EP,” he details. “Even though the album is mellow, I’m definitely speaking about things that can feel very noisy and busy.”
The Circus is a prelude to an album Jenkins is planning to release sometime this summer. The record will be his first full-fledged LP since 2018’s Pieces of a Man. Although the album's near-completion, Jenkins says he is focused on refining it as sharply as possible to make sure it stands out from his previous works.
Jenkins' talents have propelled him into the orbit of several notable acts, fellow Chicago artists such as Saba and Noname. He also appeared on “Gray Area,” a cut off buzzed-about electronic producer Kaytranada’s just-released album BUBBA.
“I actually didn’t like that shit when I first laid it down,” Jenkins shares. For him, working with Kaytranada comes easily because of their shared taste in collaborators and influences.
He divulges that the two of them “are actually trying to be serious about getting an album out, and that’s coming to fruition."
Even though Jenkins has worked with a who's who of contemporary artists, he confesses new music rarely finds its way into his listening rotation. "I consistently listen to the same old shit," he says. "That same neo-soul and old gospel music that my parents listened to is the same shit I listen to." As of late, he's derived inspiration from movies — he cites Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood as among his favorites — and artists such as Anderson .Paak, Smino, and serpentwithfeet.
Whether it be movies, clothing, poetry, or even film photography, Jenkins experiments with different means of expression, all of which eventually inform his music and onstage presentation. Don't be surprised if you see him stepping up his game when he comes through Miami. Asked if he's noticed any differences in Miami crowds compared to other audiences, Jenkins replies, "I think there'll be more sneakers, coveted sneakers."
Mick Jenkins. With EarthGang. 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 19, at the Ground, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-375-0001; thegroundmiami.com. Tickets cost $22.50 to $79 via eventbrite.com.