Chicago rap sensation Mick Jenkins gave hip-hop heads at the sold-out Middle East show something heavy but sweet to work with.

1/25/19 – Middle East

Wu-Tang and Biggie were playing as low-lying smoke clouds filled air, bouncing off the shallow, Middle East ceiling as hip-hop fans were eagerly awaiting their headliner. “Yell out if you checked that ego shit at the door!” boomed from back of the stage in a deep, authoritative voice, as the lyrical soul-rap powerhouse from Chicago’s South Side, Mick Jenkins came out to a screaming audience to promote his new critically acclaimed album, Pieces of a Man. 

In a plain white tee and baseball hat down low over his eyes, Jenkins effortlessly flowed between tight raps and heavy conversation. Using a spoken word, dressed-down, unpretentious style of rap, he spoke about his personal experiences and relationships with a palpable honesty. He also addressed harsh societal truths using sweet, melodious hooks as a chaser. Describing his experiences with racial inequality, Jenkins put the audience in a trance with the deep-cutting lyrics of “What Am I to Do”: “What’s a brotha to do? / When you call the police but the trigger’s on you / What’s a brotha to do? / ‘Cause I be screaming black they beat me to blue / Put it on TV then tell you what’s true.”

He took a break mid-show to give his co-rapper and singer, theMIND, an opportunity to perform one of his own songs. In a moment of unexpected levity, theMIND sang out, “What do you do when love comes for you? You say yea!” Then an audience member loudly replied, “Well that seems like an oversimplification.”

The night clicked into full throttle when Jenkins dropped his old classic, “Jazz,” from his original breakout mixtape, The Waters. As the first few haunting notes rang out, an electrical current shot through the crowd and everyone started jumping with giddiness. Eventually the entire room broke out into a classic “hip-hop-hooray” wave; a sure sign that you’ve done your job as a rapper. Showing gratefulness to his day-one fans for their response, Jenkins said with a humble smile, “Make some noise if you been rockin’ with me since The Waters, man.” 

With a palpable respect for the audience, Jenkins treated the crowd like they were his close friends, telling honest stories through his layered metaphors. He opened up about his renewed focus on writing, staying away from the party life, and strengthening his relationship with his fiancee, saying, “You’ll never catch me out… I like my personal space… been working on my penmanship and my relationship.” 

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