Published Jan 10, 2020To hear Mick Jenkins' new EP is to witness a once promisingly flawed artist finally come into his own. Over The Circus's seven tracks, the burgeoning underground Chicago MC doesn't just overcome the shortcomings of his 2018 album, Pieces of a Man, he transcends them.
That earlier album was held back by its simple pleasures: the fun braggadocio and punch lines that are a hallmark of battle rap, but that fall far short of the bolder social commentary that spoken word bard Gil Scott-Heron pioneered on his album of the same name in 1971. Jenkins' prior stumbles in that homage seem to have thoroughly informed this new followup.
Take "Flaunt"; over warbling keys and brawny trap percussion, Jenkins spits a catchy, rhythmic, but thematically shallow hook about how his haters want to "see me stunt... wanna see front." But just as you begin to bob your head and turn your brain off, Jenkins pleasantly surprises you with candid lines about financial woes.
In the same vein, "Same Ol" thankfully doesn't live up to its name. Instead, it offers fresh, new, empowering boasts about Jenkins' skin tone. That being said, "Same Ol'" also features lots of unabashed streetside-style ciphers that'll thoroughly satisfy no muss, no fuss hip-hop heads. Prime example: "I'm 6'5", stepping twice your stride, if I marched in place."
Better still: on "The Fit" Jenkins taunts rivals for copying "like stencils" and having "backbones like No. 2 pencils." Punch lines that powerful should satisfy even the snootiest, most poetically inclined listener.
That, and Jenkins' husky singing on the irresistibly grooving "Carefree," along with a saliva-inducing psychedelic guest turn from of-the-moment Atlanta duo EarthGang, all bring Jenkins to a new artistic strata. He has picked up the promising pieces from his last release, putting together a distinctive and more ambitious sound. Jenkins' hero, Scott-Heron, would certainly be proud. (Free Nation / Cinematic Music Group)