Reviews: Mick Jenkins, Clipping

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Mick Jenkins, The Healing Component

by Mick Jacobs

For a conclusion to be made, experiments must be held. Failures often follow. But as Edison’s failures illuminated 10,000 ways how “not to make a lightbulb,” with The Healing Component Mick Jenkins details 10,000 ways to heal.

The Chicago native’s full-length debut serves as his laboratory, where he dissects the subjects of religion, Chicago, and love. Where something like fellow Chicago MC, Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book glows with the warmth of religion, The Healing Component grapples with it; while accepting the love of God, Jenkins consequently reels from the contradictions of that love against fickle human nature.

Rather than be stunted by such conflict, Jenkins instead harnesses its friction for an effusive effect, pouring his thoughts into incredibly verbose dialogues. “As Seen in Bethsaida” and “Fall Through” exemplify these battles, Jenkins spitting his south-side struggles as the production threatens to engulf him.

That’s not to say no fun exists in this record. Jenkins’ cynicism wears well, and leads to references ranging from Zora Neale Hurston to Drake vs. Meek to Harry Potter. Midway through, Jenkins takes control off the dance-floor on the Kaytranada track, “Communicate”, with a Timbaland sense of authority mixed with Goldlink’s humor: “she wants a nigga that can sing/but she only wanna hear the C-notes.” Meanwhile, late-album highlight, “Angles”, memorably considers the idiosyncrasies of human behavior, such as the relationship between coughing and dabbing: “they both use the same muscle.”

What makes The Healing Component most compelling lies in the confidence behind its explorations, Jenkins probing various subjects and, oftentimes, coming to less formal conclusions and more open-ended questions. As he goes deeper, no concrete answers arise, and he finds himself drowning in this water he’s referenced in past projects. To save himself, he learns to swim, and that’s where the magic happens. B PLUS

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Clipping, Splendor and Misery

by Luke Fowler

Well, no one can say Daveed Diggs’ heart is in the wrong place. Fresh out of his Tony-winning role in Hamilton and only three months removed from his group’s Wriggle EP (which, while good, felt like a set of leftovers from 2014’s CLPPNG), it makes perfect sense that he’d try something more ambitious and theatrical for Clipping’s next full-length. Unfortunately, Splendor and Misery doesn’t do much to resuscitate the bygone art that is the space opera concept album, despite the sincerest efforts of all involved. That said, it’s not a bad album, and when it hits its mark, it hits hard; “All Black” is a great song which neatly ties together the dual narratives of a contemporary black man’s frustration with the establishment and a stranded astronaut in a future “Afropunk dystopia”, with a sparse beat that transports the listener to that same empty expanse. Too much of it feels like aimless experimentation, though, particularly the clumsy gospel emulation on “Story 5” (in a year that brought us Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam” and Chance’s Coloring Book, there’s really no excuse for a hip-hop artist to make gospel music sound this tedious) and the invariably gimmicky “interludes” (it sort of defeats the point of a freestyle when half the lyrics are obscured by static). Still, Diggs raps more than proficiently, the production and concept complement each other well (the background spaceship noises recall some of the group’s more minimal industrial beats of the past), and the lyrics are generally good when they aren’t wasted on exposition. I just wish more of this record lived up to the potential promised in “All Black”. Clipping have at least one great album in them, but this ain’t it. B MINUS