By Jonina Diele

It’s not often that we take the time to really appreciate the intimate, tiny-venued performances of up-and-coming artists. They’re typically seen as a stepping-stone, soon to be forgotten when the artist in question moves on to a bigger fan base, radio time, and exponentially larger concert halls. Red Bull Sound Select’s presentation of Mick Jenkins and Smino this past Thursday, October 6th, was a perfect reminder of why these small shows shouldn’t be overlooked.p-20161007-02366_news

The hype for the show began at the hands of CRL CRRLL, a Red Bull Sound Select artist who spun some tracks for the crowd to move to in anticipation of the main acts. He returned in between sets as well, and surely kept the high going. We were then introduced to producer and turntablist Fast4ward, who was a bit quiet in nature but surely not in sound—many fans even covered their ears at the start of his electronic set due to the high volume, but eventually started vibing to his improvised beats. Fast4ward offered a unique hybrid of electronic instrumentation and real instruments, switching between his turntables, flute, and guitar throughout his set. p-20161007-02360_news

Shortly after Fast4ward split, St. Louis’ own Smino took command of the stage as soon as he stepped foot on it. Accompanied by a full band and sporting a Rams jersey, the soulful rapper both serenaded and served us. At his core, this man is a musician—he can damn sure sing, his flow is unique and polished, and his stage presence is undeniable. He had the crowd singing along to songs they’d probably never heard before, and chanting back the name of his crew, Zero Fatigue. If one thing was made clear in this set, it’s that Smino won’t likely be an opening act for long.

And on to the main event—Mick Jenkins is a subtle, humbled character. He took the stage in the same manner as which he walked past the line of 300+ people waiting to see him hours before—so quietly and nonchalantly that you almost didn’t notice him. Still, he quickly got the crowds attention and led them in literally shaking the foundation of the Marquis during his opening song, “Jazz”. As was Smino, Jenkins came out backed by a full band—a drummer, three back up singers, and his producer, who was relentlessly chain smoking joints and sipping from a bottle throughout the show. p-20161007-02350_news An inspiring treat to the crowd was Jenkins performance of “Angles,” the second to last track from his debut album The Healing Component. The song is unapologetically about self love and the difficult of its pursuit—and its a message Jenkins truly wants his fans to absorb. “Make some noise if you love yourself,” he shouted at the end of the song. “Make some noise if you had to learn to love yourself.” The audience damn sure did so, providing possibly one of the first celebrations of its kind at a hip hop show.

Jenkins’ live voice carries a certain raw, passionate sound to it—he doesn’t hesitate to demonstrate his skills as an MC just as he does on his tracks, rapping his fastest verses in perfect time, but there’s something grittier and grimmier about its live tones. He didn’t shy away from singing those endlessly-stuck-in-your-head hooks he’s so good at creating, either, and the crowd didn’t shy away from simultaneously moshing and singing along during them either. Flaunting a geometric butterfly tattoo on his right forearm and a dainty gold bracelet on his left wrist, the Chicagoan continued to preach genius throughout the show—before diving into another new track, “1000 Xans,” he discussed its meaning a bit, explaining that he believes we’re all addicted to some things we don’t necessarily call drugs, like coffee and food. All while making us think, Jenkins gave us a good taste of The Healing Component while also throwing us back to his 2014 project The Water[s] with powerful songs like “Martyrs” and aforementioned “Jazz.” Oddly enough, though, he skipped sharing any tracks from his project Wave[s] which came in between the two. The audience surely didn’t seem to care, though—they were wholly invested in every word that left Jenkins’ mouth, spitting right along with him.

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In his time on stage, Jenkins proved that he’s much more than a rapper or even a poet—he’s a teacher, preacher, and maybe even a prophet. He’s devoted to spreading the message of love and pushing his fans to be better people, all while he’s still pushing himself to do the same. In his own words, which most likely still ring in the minds of those who were in attendance: “spread a little bit of love when you leave here.”