Mick Jenkins is generous. As an artist, an interviewee and a vocal presence within his community, the 24-year-old Chicago rapper makes a conscious effort to offer the most to each moment, conversation and cause deemed worthy with calm clarity in his baritone voice. He constantly reminds us to drink more water and look after ourselves through his stimulating work. He's unafraid to call out social injustices on any platform he maintains. And he holds his culture and craft at a higher regard than many of his current hip-hop peers, setting him apart as a promising lyricist and necessary voice in rap's current landscape.

But being too generous can take its toll and Mick Jenkins is finding the balance.

A year after the release of his conceptual tape The Water[s] that garnered breakout acclaim for the young MC, Mick is nearing the release of Wave[s] through Cinematic Music Group and Mick's own Free Nation imprint, which is set for dispersal through Good Years in the UK and Europe. But unlike previous tapes, branding him as the conscious rapper hip-hop needs, Mick is stepping away from expectations for an ultra-conceptual and super-serious project to experiment within his own abilities.

Wave[s] is a product of personal and creative exploration and Mick Jenkins is the one manning the sails.

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Congrats on the new tape. What everyone will be hearing this week when the project drops is one smooth tape. Very smooth, especially for a mixtape titled Wave[s]. Was that irony a conscious decision?

Not necessarily, but it was definitely me wanting to take a break the super conceptual and heavy shit that I had previously been doing. I felt like that shit, it definitely takes a toll on you as a person. Whereas before I would go into the studio and make something and adjust it as part of a concept, we just made exactly what we were feeling with Wave[s]. Like literally whatever line. The engineer and producer for ThemPeople, I would be like "What are you feeling" and then we'd see what we would come up with. That was really fun, because, I was making music really fast. I did the whole project in like two months. There was no absolute correlation between waves and the sound of the tape. I was going to call it Feels at first, because I think that's what we were trying to do was create feelings for people and that's something that I'm trying to master in getting me ready to produce this album that should come next year. But I just played with that with this mixtape and I ended up calling it Wave[s], just with my continuous water metaphor and it's just a bunch of little waves in different directions with different inspirations and seeing what we can make with that.

Feels definitely could have worked as a title too. I noticed feelings could be the theme, as the project seems more sensual considering you tap into things like relationship topics and love, so what was that process like diving into that?

I need to live to write. I can't take time from life to write, because I write about what I'm living. I was in a brand new relationship at the time and I just kind of decided to use that as inspiration as opposed to the things that are going on in society, which is constantly an inspiration. I decided to use that and I feel like it's very apparent with 'Your Love' and 'The Giver' and '40 Below'. I was thinking in a different vein about the things to address in my life. I think it's pretty similar process because I am always writing about myself and my own experiences, it's just a different aspect of myself.

You called yourself the "Dark Skinned Pharrell" while creating the tape because the music is more melodic this time around, so where did that sound come from?

It was desire. I think melodies are key in making music catchy and memorable and evoking a feeling in a person. I noticed that with the music that I was listening to, I was taking a constructive look at the music that's more popular and there's a reason why it's popular, which has a lot to do with melody. I definitely wanted to play with melody and try to figure some new shit out. It's a new world. I've never sung this much. I actually have a vocal coach, so I'm getting used to it. It's like learning a new instrument. You can play the things you've learned on the guitar right, but when you actually know the guitar, you can do whatever you want to do. I'm trying to know my singing voice and know melody so that I can really do what I want to do. It was interesting. It was a discovering process for myself, learning what I'm capable of and learning what works and what doesn't. A new arena in making music for me. It was fun.

So you enlisted artist Hayveyah McGowan to create 30x30 paintings for the project which is really dope. Why was the visual element so important for the overall concept?

I think visuals are a super important part for artists, whether it be pictures that are out for press or for videos or any visual piece. It just brings it home more and connects a certain way or draws emotion for people in a certain way. I was a person that didn't give a lot of credit to artwork. I've done artwork for songs on Paint. In the realm of exploring the music and trying to take the music to another level, I starting thinking and doing this with other areas of my life. I had the idea and I wanted to see how the music affected an artist, a painter, somebody who can give a visual to this. I sent her the songs one-by-one and had her paint based on what she felt. I haven't really even talked to her about it, because I'm saving that conversation for the listening party. But to hear my thoughts and my inspirations as to why I made the song and what it's supposed to mean, her thoughts and inspirations when she heard the song and then when she paints it and what it's supposed to mean and then the audience's interpretation of the music and the paintings separately - I think it's beautiful. It's crazy because it brings everything full circle so I had to do it that way. I think we'll show as much attention going forward to artwork as we possibly can, because it's just another avenue to express

Since last August, this past year has more-or-less been your breakout year. You really raised the bar for yourself with your last project, you have a tour coming and you were able to perform at Lollapalooza this year after admittedly sneaking in for the past few years. So how has the transition of this past year impacted you personally and on a creative level?

It's a stage. It's an opportunity for me to prove myself to people who don't know my music. It's a stepping stone. I'm being judged on it and I'm aware I'm being judged on it and we operated as if we were being judged on it. The fans will always get a good show from me and the band, you'll never have to worry about that, so I was never worried about that. When it's time to get down to work, five minutes before, we know that this is a stage and it will be written about and we'll be interviewed about it. So, we conduct ourselves as such. If you put me on a stage or a platform to showcase to that many people, you better know that I'm about business. That's kind of how we treat it.

A year has passed since you put out your last project and so many fans are admittedly looking at you to be a lyricist that's missing in rap, with a lot of focus on your lyrics, concepts and your artistry. Do you feel pressure now to be a particular voice now that your spotlight has gotten larger?

I feel the pressure but it hasn't changed my approach. I feel like doing a project like Wave[s] will make that apparent. I don't think it's what people who have come to love Mick Jenkins music are expecting at all. I don't think it's necessarily what they want. It doesn't mean they won't like it. But I'm doing exactly what I want to do. The Healing Component is the actual follow-up to The Water[s]. The content never changes, even with the relationship songs. I think I approach it in a way that's not popular. I still speak and conduct myself in ways that aren't conducive to what the rest of the world is telling you to do. Through that, I stay consistent, because it's just me as a person. I'm exploring. I'm trying things before I say I'm fully done with this album. I just want to explore before I give the world my first attempt at a debut. I don't let it bother me at all. I think about it. I think about how people will react or what people will say, but I got here doing what I know to do.

You definitely haven't shied away from social commentary ever. You're a very necessary voice in your music, especially now. But last month you tweeted, "The fuck is a song about it going to do. I don't want you to understand how I feel." That was around the time of the horrific Sandra Bland incident. How do you describe the discouragement you may feel as an artist in an attempt to make a difference with your music, while battling a greater persistent evil such as police brutality?

I understand it, I do, but I think it's very selfish for somebody to tweet me and say like, "Yo, make a song about it," so they can feel better and not actually solve the problem. I'm worried about the problem. I know how the problem makes people feel and I know people don't want to feel like that anymore. If I make something that relieves people from that feeling, then cool. I'm not going to drop everything to make a song, because that's not going to solve the problem. It's frustrating, because I have a lot of friends that are activists on the ground-floor fighting social issues. On the front lines. We talk and they say, "You're a voice of the movement. We're bumping your music." But like, I'm still waking up every day to new people being shot by police. I can find all the meaning in all the places where it's important. We can have a conversation and I can tell you all the ways it helps and tomorrow, someone else is going to die and they're going to need another song.

At the end of the day, it's still "power to the people, middle fingers to the popos."

Exactly. You took the words right from the song ['P's & Q's'].

You have a whole tour ahead of you so what can fans expect from that live show?

Their minds blown. We put a lot of effort into the show. I have a new drummer, I have new music and we have a new set. We have fun. It's lit. People who haven't seen the show should definitely come out. I think when the tape drops, we'll have some more females at the shows. That's always good. In the meantime, we're recording the album. I've been done the music for Wave[s] since April. So all the music I've been doing after that is potential for the album.

So you're a vegetarian and you're very adamant about self-care. How do you plan to take care of yourself on the road?

There's not much I can do. There's not a lot of vegetarian options in the way that we move on tour. I will not eat before I eat chips and shit. I do that every once in a while, but on a regular basis, when we be going in and out of gas stations, I just be grabbing Naked and water. I lose weight when I'm on tour, because I'd rather not eat than eat bad shit.

Well, I don't want to see a video of you passing out on stage, because you haven't eaten.

It's definitely not that bad. Once in I get to the cities, it's fine but it's just while we're on the road.

Okay good. So, on top of releasing Wave[s] and going on tour, you have your debut album in the works as you mentioned, so how will The Healing Component cement your artistic legacy?

I think that The Healing Component will do what everything else I've done has done. You've heard Trees and Truths and you've heard The Water[s] and saw the improvement. When you hear The Water[s] and you hear Wave[s] you'll notice the improvement. I don't take the title of debut album lightly at all. It's going to be very apparent with the quality of the music and the quality of the visuals. I think that the release and the shows will prove that I'm not going anywhere. It's going to raise the bar or match a bar that was previously set by Kendrick [Lamar.] But, if anybody does some research, I just get better. I'm only getting better.


Wave[s] is set for release on August 21st. Stream it below.