There are a few codes of conduct to follow at any concert. Don’t record the entire concert on your phone, especially not with flash. Don’t yell out song requests unless the artist asks for them. And although the concert may be packed, do your best to respect people’s personal space. These are fairly easy rules to follow for most people.
Unfortunately, not following these basic guidelines can ruin a concert-going experience for nearly everyone else around you. This was the case at the Mick Jenkins concert at the Theatre of the Living Arts Jan. 24.
Mick Jenkins is quietly one of the greatest rappers of all time. After releasing the critically acclaimed project “The Water[s],” Jenkins has been honing his craft behind the scenes of mainstream hip-hop. In the more than four years since “The Water[s],” Jenkins has released three other commercial projects, two free mixtapes and many loose songs. He’s also collaborated with big names like Ghostface Killah, Chance the Rapper, Kaytranada and Joey Badass. The Chicago MC has focused on more conceptual projects and thought-provoking poetic verses rather than bombastic-pop songs.
That’s not to say that Jenkins does not have range. On “Pieces of a Man,” his album released in late 2018, Jenkins took on sexual consent in the smooth “Consensual Seduction” and confidently stunted on the wickedly addictive “Grace & Mercy.”
The “Pieces of a Man” tour opened with Stock Marley and Kari Faux. Marley, a member of Free Nation, Jenkin’s hip-hop collective, took the stage first and got the crowd moving to his lyrically dense tracks. Jenkin’s influence was obvious on his performance. Next up was Kari Faux, a female rapper from Little Rock, Arkansas. Faux was more upbeat, mixing her verses with confidence and more R&B-infused hooks. She bounced around the stage, always with a smile on her face. She started her last song, “No Small Talk” when an audience member began rapping the first verse for her, which was much more fun than what was to come later from another audience member.
Soon after Faux left the stage, band members began to take their place and the crowd roared as Jenkins sauntered on stage. Jenkins was dressed in a nice striped button-up shirt that somewhat resembled a prison uniform. This was probably no accident: Jenkins has often referenced police brutality and unfair criminal policies in his past work. The rapper towered over the audience, standing well past 6-feet tall, and his deep voice matched his daunting stature. Jenkins nearly shouting the hook “I stress a lot!” to his opening track “Stress Fracture.”
About this time was when a certain audience member made himself known. A tall-gangly white 20-something pushed himself through the crowd. He was ecstatic to be at this concert, screaming “DRINK MORE WATER” or just screaming in general. His voice was somehow louder than Jenkins and his instrumentation. This was annoying, but bearable.
It’s important to note that while Mick Jenkins is an extremely talented rapper, his concerts would not be described as “hype.” I’ve seen Jenkins twice before this show at the TLA, and the crowd is usually nodding their heads instead of moshing. His music is intricate and thought-provoking, and focuses more on enticing melodies rather than bass-heavy drums.
This audience member must have thought he was at a different concert. He was constantly grabbing everyone around him and jumping into them. He was also loudly rapping to every lyric, including the lyrics that a white person should not be yelling. It got to the point where a woman screamed at him to stop harassing her.
Jenkins ran through the majority of his album, from the dense “Ghost” to the energetic and almost nautical “Understood.” Jenkins broke down the meaning of some of his songs, discussing the difficulties of just living normally and seeing different perspectives that influenced his latest album. He also played some lesser known songs, such as “Piano,” off of his experimental 2015 EP “Wave[s].” Ironically, someone was yelling at the gangly white guy to stop touching his girlfriend as Jenkins played “Spread Love,” the lead single off of his 2016 debut album “The Healing Component”.
After running through the majority of his album, Jenkins wrapped up the show with his most well-known track to date, “Jazz.” The slow tempo track off of “The Water[s]” showcases Jenkins discussing the truth in stories and his concept of “water.” Probably the most often-referenced topic in his music, water represents many things, including healing and truth. He has often championed drinking more water, long before it became an internet meme. He thanked the audience and left the stage.
I kept my distance when leaving to avoid the gangly man, who had been reprimanded by no less than six different audience members (myself included), but never stopped being a disruption to the show. I left the show thinking two things: that I needed to see Mick Jenkins live for a fourth time, and to never be as awful as that gangly guy.