By Joseph Gray //
Mick Jenkins does not have all the answers, nor does he pretend to. However, in the midst of America’s political revitalization that grows more and more volatile in a presidential election year surrounded by several recent instances of police brutality, the Chicago rapper does offer some healing — an elixir comprised of reflection, faith-based actions and a soundtrack that puts an emphasis on love. And the pot boils over into something not to be ignored.
Even if it’s only for the time and that moment, the good vibes are undeniable. The 25-year-old Jenkins showed this liberation off at LA’s Bootleg Theater last Tuesday while on his “A Quest for Love” tour, which is doubling as a victory lap for his well-constructed, critically acclaimed album The Healing Component, during the latest installment of Red Bull’s Sound Select series. While the intimate settings of the series that’s curated by the popular energy drink are often accompanied with baking temperatures, last Monday provided a different but suitable cool.
Jenkins followed St. Louis native Smino, the neighboring rapper in Chicago’s Zero Fatigue crew. Smino mixed melodic harmonies, clever wordplay and playful fun, the latter of which culminated in an entertaining moment where he danced to classic records in an ode to his city’s artists like Grammy winner Nelly. With more than enough reason to dive into Smino’s catalog after the show, Jenkins was ready to get to the meat and potatoes of his crusade.
Sneaking onstage without a grand introduction but with a live band intact, Jenkins charmed by using his signature deep-and-stern voice to power the crowd through his waters of truth and purpose. Yet, this was not an hour-long set where everything relied simply on prophetic words. The diverse and sold-out crowd came unhinged several times to big sounds, notably during “Jazz”, a standout from Jenkins’ 2014 mixtape The Water(s) — a precursor then and last week to his latest LP that highlights the positives of humanity over the blues we often learn about from local news coverage.
While he suggested that we “drink more water” during his performance, Jenkins continually refreshed the audience with a jug of feel-good material from THC. From the warm “Spread Love” to the darker, more hypnotic “Daniels Bloom”, Jenkins used his lyrical sword to cut through faith, violence and race toward a light, which at the very least, was different.
“Don’t let the struggle make your heart harder,” Jenkins rapped. “Sip the truth, spit the truth. That’s the smart water.”
With all the love, passion and consciousness in the room, Jenkins was still down for a riotous goodbye — this coming in the form of “Social Network (Gang)” by Chicago hip-hop collective Hurt Everybody that he’s featured on — where he motivated one last frenzy before a surprise stage dive.
After these small moves toward promoting love, Jenkins asked us at the end of the night to let him know if a difference was truly felt. Amid smiles, a room full of energy and avid chants for an encore taking place, it appeared he got his answer.