Published Oct 31, 2018The ghost of Gil Scott-Heron looms large over Mick Jenkins latest LP— from the sly and socially conscious spoken word intro, to the moments where he switches from rapping to singing in a husky baritone, to the jazzy production, to, of course, the album's title. By calling his new LP Pieces of a Man — one of Scott-Heron's most influential albums upon its release in 1971 — Jenkins pays homage to one of hip-hop's forbears, while also building on that esteemed elder's considerable legacy.
That's not to say Jenkins parrots Scott-Heron throughout. On the contrary, many of his lyrics lean on punch lines and cipher-style boasts about his prowess as a wordsmith, rather than going the overtly political route of Scott-Heron's "We Almost Lost Detroit," or "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
On the hazy, smooth-jazz sampling "Gwendolynn's Apprehension" for instance, Jenkins brags about being "more coercive than simple calligraphy, figure me a whole different nigga from what I was meant to be." On "Barcelona" meanwhile, he employs some creatively nimble rhyming about his "dividends tricklin'" due to his impressive "penmanship" (awkward as that may look in print, Jenkins makes it sound endlessly smooth and congruent).
In terms of meat and potatoes, cypher-style rap, Jenkins finds an ample partner in rhyme for "Padded Locks": none other than Ghostface Killah. The Wu-Tang legend spits hilarious disses about foes thirsting for "fame and glory / you're basic as a baby daddy, on Maury" over electronic keys that glisten and reverberate. The gorgeous production on that track can be attributed to Canadian producer de jour Kaytranada (he also has a hand in back end track "Understood"). Other top notch collaborators include fellow Canuck stars BADBADNOTGOOD on the simmering "Smoking Song" and British singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae on the sultry "Consensual Seduction."
That Bailey Rae-assisted track ends with a skit that, unlike most such rap album filler, is actually quite revealing and provocative. While not spoiling that little gem, suffice to say it's a fitting update to Scott-Heron's use of the term "pieces of a man" (which referred to addicts wrestling with their demons) that suits today's fractured media landscape aptly.
Sure, it would've been nice for Jenkins to offer even more such insightful commentary on this LP, rather than devoting the bulk of his lyrics to braggadocio. But this creative, star-studded album nevertheless showcases Jenkins' potential to fill the late Scott-Heron's shoes as a rap poet laureate. (Cinematic)