By: Jonina Diele

We don’t talk about love enough. At least not in its gritty, less appealing forms: self love, God’s love, love in different relationships, and the pain that comes with it. And we surely don’t talk about it in rap very often. Mick Jenkins wants to change that.

 

His first step in doing so—which is much more of a giant leap—comes in the form of his debut album, The Healing Component. Its title, which he wittily abbreviates to “THC” throughout the project, is about love. The entire album (and Jenkins’ latest vision as an artist) is. And he makes sure we know it. “Spread Love,” the album’s first single, offers on the chorus: “And they be asking, ‘what do love got to do with the point?’ / It’s the soothe in your water, it’s the truth in your joint”. With the release of this single, and its title as Jenkins’ personal mantra, the tone for this album was set over a month before its release on September 23rd—and it may never ring out.

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The Chicagoan has a knack for building metaphors and messages—and sticking to them. He’s swam with his message of “drink more water”—water being life’s essential, and often ugly, truths—for years now, through his 2014 mixtape The Water[s], 2015 EP Wave[s], and now through The Healing Component. It’s at its loudest in “Drowning” (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD): “I was high and I was startin’ to lose focus / Then I stumbled in the water, I was trippin’, I was chokin’ / Saying, I can’t breathe”. The track, accompanied by a strikingly powerful visual, is a skillful metaphoric commentary on police brutality, oppression, and the more general heinous truths of America. The last words of Eric Garner linger in Jenkins’ soothing voice, and in this he’s still offering love as a solution, and pushing his water/truth message further: it’s essential, but challenge it. Don’t let it drown you.4cf96e6c

The project’s backbone is clips of a raw, honest conversation about love between Jenkins and his sister tacked on to the beginnings and ends of its tracks. It’s in these bites of the rapper’s deep, thoughtfully stuttering voice that we can really feel the love rather than just hear it—and we’re able to realize some of the message’s motivation as well. As is obvious with his approach to love, Jenkins isn’t afraid to speak about subjects that are often avoided in rap, one of them being faith. He makes it clear to us that it’s God’s message driving this album, it’s theme, and Jenkins himself. At the start of “Strange Love,” he’s asked if love is the only healing component. He responds: “you know, like I said, that’s what Jesus was down here to show us…that’s what his purpose was on this Earth…spread love and spread God’s message”. Later, on the brooding and bass heavy “As Seen in Bethsaida,” he lets us know that he “kinda [tries] to follow in his footsteps”.

About midway through the album, it eases into the more radio-friendly end of Jenkins’ musical spectrum, which most of Wave[s] resided in. We start getting tracks like “Communicate,” a Kaytranada produced, house vibed, love bubbling joint. It features silky vocals by fellow Chicagoan Ravyn Lenae and will undoubtedly have you dancing in your car with the windows rolled down, feeling like it’s still the middle of summer. From here we get some groovier tunes, and Jenkins’ flow falls into a flawless, velvety balance of staccato claims and chilled conversation.

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Eventually, we come to “Angles”. While Jenkins’ grapples with self love throughout the album, it’s living and breathing in this song. Lines like “If you’ve never been alone how you know yourself? / If you ain’t up on the water how you grow yourself? / You should love you so much that you go Marilyn Manson and blow yourself” paired with incredible features make this track a pounding must-hear. The angelic tones of Xavier Omär’s vocals on the chorus and rapper Noname’s effortless flow on her verse are the cherries on top of a well-crafted anthem with an extremely important message.

The Healing Component is a debut that’s better than what many artists forge together at the tail end of their carriers. It’s cohesive, relatable, testing, and an important gift. Fifteen tracks in, you’ll surely come out a little more healed.