Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins pours his heart and soul out during his latest stop through LA

Mick JenkinsBy Joseph Gray //

Mick Jenkins with Smino //
Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles
October 4th, 2016 //

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.

Mick Jenkins

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.

Mates of State are one quirky husband-and-wife band

Mates of StateBy Josh Herwitt //

Mates of State with Babes, Fictionist //
Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles
January 26th, 2015 //

It’s not every day that you see a husband and wife start a band and make it work for 17 years.

But after seven LPs, three EPs and a number of other releases on their résumé, Mates of State’s Kori Gardner (vocals, organ, synthesizer, piano, electric piano, guitar) and Jason Hammel (vocals, drums, percussion, synthesizer) are still going strong, with a new album on the horizon more than three years since dropping 2011’s well-received Mountaintops.

At the warehouse-styled Bootleg Hifi in LA’s Historic Filipinotown neighborhood, the indie-pop duo introduced some of those new tunes that we can expect to be released this May, but it was older cuts like “My Only Offer,” “The Re-Arranger,” “Goods (All in Your Head)” and “Now We’re Gonna Get It” that had the small, but loyal audience singing along on a cold, rainy Monday evening.

Mates of State

Though it was clear that Mates of State’s sound still remains confined largely to keyboards and drums, the couple’s ability to harmonize and play off each other with their vocal parts has always been one of the group’s greatest attributes since its early beginnings, which date back to the late 90’s in Lawrence, Kan. Because from the way Gardner and Hammel create polyphonies with their voices alone, it sounds as if they are playing another instrument altogether — both in and out of the studio.

Back at the half-filled Bootleg, Gardner and Hammel crack a few jokes in between songs, going back and forth at one point about whether the next song was about kidney stones (as Hammel claimed) or Hurricane Katrina (as Gardner countered). While the subject matters being debated aren’t normally meant to be funny, their banter was hard not to chuckle at, offering fans a lighthearted moment to remember during the hour-long set. They even traded places (sort of) for a song, as Gardner took a seat behind the drum kit and Hammel manned the mic at the front of the stage.

To close things out, Gardner and Hammel didn’t leave their promise — or maybe it was supposed to be more of a tease — unkept, leaving us with their new cover of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” before exiting stage left. It felt like a rather strange and anti-climactic way to end the show, which started with LA-based band Babes and continued with Utah alt-rockers Fictionist before the main event.

But as Cyrus sings to open her song, “It’s our party we can do what we want,” and on this late January night, the so-called party, if you will, belonged to the husband and wife on stage.