Chicago Hip Hop

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10min2610

There’s that scene in Love Jones where Darius Lovehall recites a poem, which was an ode for Nina Mosely at the Sanctuary, the poetry and jazz club that the two met and frequented often with friends.

As soon as Pieces of A Man was in my earshot, it was as though I could see and smell the clouds of smoke in the club, waitresses taking countless orders from those fortunate to get a seat at one of the few tables in the big room filled with those with the proclivity for bohemian vibes.

Depending on the performer, the entertainment value in poetry sessions can be equal to that of a simple book club. But this album is a gesture to Mick’s days as a poet in the poetry collective, Young Chicago Authors.  He opens with a sonnet on Heron Flow setting the scene for the whole album, then the joint takes a soulful funk twist with some singing by Julien Bell.

Pieces of A Man displays Mick’s evolution as a young black man as well as an artist which excites me, that he’s only 27 years old creating such rich music.  His bars pack the same truth as a Dave Chappelle joke.

From the jump, I built a connection with the song Ghost, one because of the beat that break so nicely on Mick’s flow and two, the content and his brash delivery. He hints at being a recluse who isn’t too concerned by superficial stuff that come with the fame because ultimately, he knows his worth.

N define worth to me,

’cause I won’t win the trophy

I been watchin’ it closely,

All that glitter’s just garnish

And I’m more partial to Parsley,

And all the medals will tarnish,

You played your hardest

And they ate your heart out

I found these lines particularly interesting because at age 27, most artists still harbour dreams of winning an award and receiving recognition from dubious industry gatekeepers. But Mick shows that in his isolation and in finding himself as a man, he’s made peace with the fact that he won’t be a celebrated kat like a Kendrick Lamar, not for lack of skill, but because of industry red tape.

One thing that most of us struggle with as we get older, is growing apart from friends that we’ve known for a years. This could be because they aren’t on the same level with you socially, financially and otherwise. He talks to that discomfort in Pull Up.  He could’ve done without Grace & Mercy on the project-listening to the song was the equivalent of going to the lavatory during a great show for about a minute and 51 seconds, and then coming back for the enjoyment.

I find Corinne Balley Rae’s music insipid, it’s not about her talent. Her music simply doesn’t stick on me. But I found the Brit quite sexy in this song Consensual Seduction. It was like hearing a singer from my church doing sensual music, and actually finding her attractive. She’s a great feature and a surprising one too. If I had heard the song before she recorded her part, I would bet my life that Mick was gonna rope in a Ravyn Lenae. Soft Porn is another joint I enjoyed, the beat reminded me of Mick’s Get Up Get Down joint from his Waves project. Soft Porn is slower and raunchier.

Mick’s writing is enjoyable to listen to and even read through- listen to Barcelona to get what I mean. I disagree with a friend of mine though, who called me in excitement after the album dropped, to say Mick Jenkins is the lyricist of our generation. He’s an astonishing writer who perfectly puts his vocabulary into good use, but I don’t know who or what that doesn’t allow me to agree with that outrageous statement that he’s the best of our generation. To which includes, Kendrick Lamar, Joyner Lucas, Tobe Nwigwe, J.I.D, Lupe Fiasco and Acidrap Chance The Rapper among the long list. My definition of “this generation” is from around 2006 when the mixtapes went from spittin’ on popular beats, to actually creating bodies of work that can stand next to albums.

Fittingly titled Reginald, Mick displays his pen game and perspective. He places himself as a ruler and one to gives sound counsel on a few things, staying in pocket on the lazy beat, delivering poignant rhymes.

Don’t spend too much time in mirrors,

Reflections will get you cought up,

Connections will get you brought up in conversation,

You basing everything you know about me from moments,

I’m more a compilation of composition, it’s complicated,

I’ve contemplated so many perspectives,

Accommodated my vices, exonerated emotions,

And then I’m copin’ Macaulay Culkin,

I’m trappin’my demons over Bohemian Rhapsody

The theme around poetry is palpable, but Pieces Of A Man is quite complex. Poetry plays the role a conduit in the piecing together the man’s narrative . Gwendolynn’s Apprehension is based on African American poet, Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1959 poem We Real Cool. That Brooks’ words still carry weight as they did when her piece came out almost 60 years ago is telling of how youth, despite era, think they’re beyond reproach and just too cool for school.

BadBadNotGood’s working relationship with the Chicago rapper is a great match. The album’s last track, Smoking Song was sitting alone with Mick, sharing a joint by the corner of the club after he just gave the packed room himself.

Love Jones was a classic film that transcended the time, but unfortunately did not do well in the box office. Pieces Of A Man shares that sentiment of timelessness, I just hope it doesn’t get slept on.

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6min2840

THERE’S nun more annoying than a female that raps about being a female who is a rapper. It’s in the ilk of old niggers spitting a bunch of remember raps-rhymes about how they were leaders of the game aeons ago.

Thank rap gods, Noname is neither. She can’t be classified an OG since her latest project, Room 25, is actually her debut album. She released her first mixtape two years ago, the critically acclaimed Telefone.

From the jump, you can feel Phoelix’s influence on this project. Dude has the executive production role in the album and officially features on two tracks. Because of this, the project is more musical than Telefone. It’s kinda bizarre that this is only Noname’s second project.

In the first track Self, she says this project will makes you question your reasoning on religion, relationships and even Kanye. But it’s her second that caught me, where she raps

Mr. Money Man, Mr. Every Day He Got Me

Mr. Wifing Me Down, Mr. Me-Love, Mr. Miyagi

Miscellaneous, Mr. Molly Inside My Sake

Incredible, incredible emptiness in my body

Heaven’s only four-feet tall, I set my ringer to it

Fucked your rapper homie, now his ass is making better music

My pussy teachin ninth-grade English

My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism

In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus

And y’all still thought a bitch couldn’t rap huh?

Maybe this your answer for that good pussy

I know niggas only talk about money and good pussy

The Chicago rapper always spits shit that make you ponder on the extraterrestrial, without forcing it down your throat. Because of her poetry background, Noname always prioritizes the bars, but her Achilles heel is her monotonous flow. She isn’t the overly sexual Nicki Minaj, nor is she rambunctious and hella ghetto as Cardi B, drops bars as a Rapsody but maintains her uniqueness. Her flow is unconventional than most emcees in the industry.

But her music ends up sounding the same, even though it talks to a variety of things. On Ace, with Saba and Smino, Noname holds her own with some of her humorous lines-she has a great sense of humour which always suprises me  because she seems a serious individual.

But because of her flow, she doesn’t lure your ear as Saba and Smino’s verse. She sounds dull next to these colourful rappers. This was the song where she flexed about being a dope all-round artist, but it also presented an opportunity for her to show us the ace up her sleeve in terms of flow. But dololo. The Dillaesque beat on Don’t Forget About Me sounds tailor made for Noname’s nonchalant flow.

This is lullaby music and bumping this album on a long drive to the other side of the country would be enjoyable. It’s good music. Every time I hear her rap, my ear itches to hear that old school Chance The Rapper. This is probably because Chance introduced the world to Noname.

On Montego Bae with Ravyn Lanae, she sounds like a woman out of high school more comfortable with her sexuality and knows herself more than she did when Telefone came out. On her previous album, she spoke about a lost lover on the disheartening Bye Bye Baby, but sounds a happier damsel on Montego Bae.  Noname’s music feels like a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, enjoying it in a cosy warm bed. The track With You captures this feeling and is so relaxing, shame it’s a short song.


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