Mick Jenkins – "The Waters" Album Review || The Ether Report

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Conceptually, The Water[s] hits its mark. The production is driven by aquatic synths, deep basses, and dreary melodies that ring true to the project’s title, but the “water” concept even extends itself beyond the sonic side of the project and submerges the listener for 15 of the 16 tracks through its content (save “Jerome”). Titles like “Shipwrecked,” “Dehydration,” “Drink More,” and the straight-forward title track “The Waters” set up an obvious theme that gives the mixtape a definitive identity. The intro record “Shipwrecked” is Mick’s proverbial “life boat” crashing as he encounters the dangers of his past reckless lifestyle. In the hunt for money he’s apparently almost killed –

It’s been tragic
Since Boy Meets World been savaged
But the goal was never really the beef, its been cabbage
We kill for it, when we die we can’t have it
But we can’t kill the habit holdin’ onto this boat ’til we shipwreck

– Mick Jenkins, Shipwrecked

Seemingly out of it, the somber tone switches itself up as the previously water-phobic Mick now dedicates himself to his Water[s] theory and gains a new consciousness with a message that he intends to deliver for free along with a new lifestyle, bringing both verses full circle.

I’ve been in these waters like the Titanic
Waves crashed down, you would’ve thought a nigga drowned
But I’m staring at the sky like “Why panic?”
Don’t you know who I pray to? We’ve been lookin’ like prey

– Mick Jenkins, Shipwrecked

To pick out ultimate standouts from The Water[s] is a tough task due to it’s fluidity from song to song. Many of the songs offer the same tone and presentation, which will make or break the project for some listeners due to its lack of variance. The project doesn’t stray away from it’s concept and prominently features vocals from Mick alone on most songs. Through our panel’s lengthy discussion we did champion “Jazz” as a unanimous favorite, a song as far reaching as all of our unique reasons for liking the project as a whole. “Jazz” is thinly sliced, and can be described as dry before the chorus opens the record up like a rain storm after a drought, an image depicted by Mick in the song’s visual.

It’s eclectic production borrows elements from rock, neo-soul, hip hop, and of course jazz. All of this culminates into an artistic explosion which leaves the artist to solidify the song’s worth, which is where Mick Jenkins drives his convincing campaign home. His rap style is emotional, yet decisive in its sternness. He lends himself to a pure rap fan’s ear with literary devices and metaphors (like the “waters” concept), before delivering thought provoking lines that mark his mission.

Drop tops in the hood, and they sitting on 22’s
Nigga still on section 8 though
Tricking on the low for a ho nigga
Momma at the crib tryna stretch a couple pesos
Couldn’t paint a pretty picture with the tears and her makeup
Better get MAACO, makeovers help niggas make money
But I’mma always talk that James Moody
Most rappers these days is actors
And I can’t keep watching the same movie

– Mick Jenkins, Jazz

His name drops of famous jazz musicians like James Moody, Miles Davis, and Frank Sinatra throughout the song boost its credibility. That same lust for knowledge and consciousness of his surroundings have carried Mick to this point. For an artist who has only been rapping for four years he’s certainly miles ahead of his counterparts. He is a true wordsmith, using every opportunity he can to weave some kind of sleight of hand into his verses. This may stem from his background of writing poetry, a style of writing which forces the artists’ words to be the sole proprietor in connecting with an audience.

Spitting that truth like a cold white rapper
Niggas gon’ always need some Proof

– Mick Jenkins, The Waters

Mick spits on the title track “The Waters.” The bar is an ode to Eminem’s late friend in rhyme, Proof. The mixtape is laden with little gems like this that force the listener to take a second look after their delivery. “The Waters” is an interesting cut, one of my favorites due to it’s well roundedness, it will be a hit or miss for some due to it’s fun house mirror resemblance to Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools.” A case can be made for Kendrick Lamar being the sole inspiration to Mick’s music on the tape in general due to it’s dim lights and the snarling delivery from the artist.

The mixtape falls in it’s stubbornness to diverge from the concept. It’s a glass half full/half empty debate where you are satisfied with playing this one straight through or you develop listener’s fatigue due to the striking resemblance each track has to one another. Though the “water” concept was straightforward, there was an “unclear” metaphor Mick was looking to deliver in his constant references to Ginger Ale. Another off putter was the random “Jerome” which should have defined itself as a bonus track as it clearly rubbed our listeners the wrong way, aside from a standout verse from Joey Bada$$.

Overall, “The Water[s]” is fitting for what has been a dry year musically, I wasn’t shy in calling it the best project of the year (so far) during our Ether Report segment. Mick’s swing for the fences is a double off the wall, if not a home run. We’re introduced to a new concept in an album that gets it right off the bat, and an artist that is clearly determined to touch us even if it means he doesn’t benefit from it immediately.

Overall, we decided to give The Water[s] an

8.76 out of 10 ••

Stream The Water[s] below