Following the release of his sophomore LP, Pieces of a Man, Mick Jenkins set out on his Pieces of a Man Tour in early January. On Thursday, January 24th, Kevin and I went to see Mick Jenkins in concert for his Pieces of a Man Tour at Philadelphia’s Theater of Living Arts (TLA). Following his concert, we talked about some of our favorite moments from the show, Jenkins’ progression as an artist, question if he’s reached his ceiling as an artist, and more! Here’s our conversation:
Stanley: We typically don't talk too much about the opening acts, but given the history of Mick's opening acts (Saba, Noname, Smino, etc.), and how they've faired after opening for him, we'd be remiss not to talk about the opening acts lol.
Kevin: Both of the opening acts surprised. First, I actually never heard of Stock Marley but he basically has “grit” written on his forehead. Boom bap, bars, introspection, real, speaking on the streets/trauma—he had it all. Kari Faux is (lazy comparison time) basically a swagged out Tierra Whack. She has A LOT of potential.
We start talking about ceilings, I don’t know. Stock Marley ceiling seems pretty capped as currently constructed. Need more context and time on him. Kari has a fan base it seems and has the stage presence. She is funny and talented. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her catch a mainstream-ish buzz soon.
The real guy I’m looking at is theMIND. He is the one I think will find a following after another LP. He has a distinct sound and a great song writer (and from Philly!). Being next to Mick is a good look.
What you seeing out of the openers?
Stanley: Shoutout theMIND! He has a really great ear, or at least an ear I like lol. And I think he has a nice voice/tone. I’m excited about whatever comes next for him.
But, I liked the opening acts! You hit the nail on the head with Stock Marley. I enjoyed him, and I liked a lot of his content. But, as you said, his ceiling may be capped. I'll be following him for sure, though.
I liked Kari Feaux a lot. I thought she had great energy, I liked some of the songs she did, and I think she has a nice mix of humor and a variety of flows that makes her a compelling rapper. Like you said, I got some Tierra Whack vibes. But speaking of Tierra Whack, that makes me think of her ceiling.
In some ways it seems like there's been a shift in how women rappers are received, especially those that aren't mainstream -- e.g., Noname, Tierra Whack, Rapsody -- but still receive critical acclaim and have growing fan bases. In some ways, they all have some combination of being above average - high level rappers, relatable in their content, and everyday-like in their overall presentations. I'm working through this lol. I'm saying that to say, it seems like Kari Feaux has come around at the right time, so her ceiling is moving in an upward direction because of the moment we are in.
You've seen Mick roughly 4 times now (?) How did this show compare to the other ones you've seen?
Kevin: Lol. You can say I’ve had my fill of Mick shows. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve seen him. This is definitely the most ambitious I’ve seen him become at a live show. He incorporated a live band and changed some of the song arrangements.
Look...I’m riding with Mick until the wheels fall off but I wanted a little more. Maybe it was the bad sound system at TLA, the smoked out crowd, or him thinking we were DC and has tour fatigue, I just think something was a little off. He still doesn’t give an inch and raps his bars like the album (word count in the 99th percentile), I just think he could have allowed the band to go off more. You have a band, use them! They sounded solid but you have to allow them to bring that element to the live show. Mick is VERY bad heavy and he can use the live band to allow the people to dance more and provide some variety that his dense bars don’t allow room for sometimes.
This brings me to one of my questions.
Is Mick tapped out ceiling-wise? What can he do to cultivate an even bigger fan base?
Other Chicago artists have lapped him in buzz kinda. And I’m not sure it’s any fault of his own. Is this just the landscape of music where a guy like Mick can fill up a TLA, but not a Fillmore/Union Transfer, etc.?
Stanley: In comparison to the last time I saw him, I thought this was a step up. Since the last show he's added a bass player, in addition to his drummer, and theMIND on background vocals. The last time I saw him he essentially had 3 background vocalists, a DJ, and a drummer. That just didn't make sense - his music isn't harmonically driven enough to where he needs 3 background singers. In terms of band composition, I think he should add a keyboard player, keep the backing tracks, and let the instruments take more of a center stage. So, I agree with you there. The rearrangements were nice, but to me, a lot of the songs ended kind've abruptly. I wish there was more cohesion between songs and better transitions.
Also, the TLA’s sound was horrendous. The drums weren’t properly mic’d and you couldn’t feel the bass. It’s like they didn’t have any subwoofers. That was super wack to me. You touched on the crowd being very uhh vibe-y (?) and smoked out. I think the sound had a really big part to play in that. You couldn’t feel the music in any real way.
The first time Mick came to Philly he was at The Barbery, which holds like 200 people. Then The Foundry, which holds about 450 people, and now the TLA which holds roughly 1,000 people. So, there's been a nice progression. In terms of a ceiling -- I think he's reached it. Like, I think he has a really strong fan base, but I don't see him necessarily gaining more fans. But, I do think there is a way to gain more fans, but he's going to need help. Maybe like a feature on an artists song [someone relatively in the mainstream] or something.
Basically, I think he needs like a feature or label backing. Idk lol. He's done a lot on his own, which is really impressive. But to get to that next level I think he needs help.
What do you think? What will it take?
Kevin: And that’s where I am with this. He needs a co-sign or a stable (TDE/Dreamville/etc). I think he has done a great job building the framework of his brand and fan base. But I always come back to this song he has on The Waters—it’s called Black Sheep. I think Mick really wants to stand out and sees himself as an outcast compared to other artists. He may just want to see this thing through and do things primarily on his own. And I remember hearing an Oddisee interview and he mentioned something about being fine with his level of fame/popularity. He says true to himself and is comfortable with his space in hip hop. Maybe that’s where Mick is, and comparing him to others (in Chicago specifically) isn’t the way to look at him. But I don’t know really lol. It’s all speculation here.