Mick Jenkins Isn’t Your Average Rapper

The 26-year-old rapper sat down with Complex for his recent partnership with PUMA to talk about his poetic roots, his city, and, of course, what to expect

Video directed by Spencer Gillespie
Photos by Anthony Trevino

“I definitely try to be the voice of a Chicago person that’s not spoken about often,” explains the multi-talented rapper Mick Jenkins when speaking about his musical hub of hometown. Chicago, as many know, boasts an array of rap talent—from Kanye to Vic Mensa to Chance The Rapper—so it’s not only easy to get lost in the shuffle, but also to be pigeonholed as just another Chi-Town MC. 

The now-26-year-old rapper started to make a name for himself, though, back in 2014, after the release of his single and music video for “Martyrs.” Delivering hard-hitting yet catchy hooks and lyrics, along with quality visuals, Jenkins caught the eye of many with his refreshing talent. Another mixtape and studio album later, Jenkins is still providing those raw, thought-provoking lyrics, and giving listeners a unique perspective on his city. 

Mick Jenkins for PUMA

So, when PUMA wanted to approach an artist who truly embodies the ethos of their latest sneaker, the Tsugi Kori, Jenkins was a no-brainer. Not only is he based in a city that’s hit with some of the most extreme weather conditions throughout the year—though, especially in the fall and winter—but he also draws from the weather and other natural elements, such as water, in his music. As Jenkins explains, while talking about the mixtape that arguably put him on the musical map, “water is synonymous with truth, the truth about life, beauty, success, happiness—that truth is as important as water is.” This powerful metaphor about something so simple yet vital as water is the whole idea behind The Water(s), and what makes the entire mixtape truly shine. 

Mick Jenkins for PUMA

Like some of his fellow Chicagoans who are now also making names for themselves in the music industry, Saba and Noname, Jenkins uses powerful metaphors, symbolism, and other tools from his poetic background to bring his raps and lyricism to a higher level. It’s also no surprise that all three artists (Saba, Noname, and Jenkins) came from the same poetry collective in Chicago, the Young Chicago Authors (YCA). And as Jenkins teases, they all share a friendly competitiveness between each other. 

So as Jenkins works on his follow-up to 2016’s The Healing Component, expect those poetic roots to shine once again—but he also hinted he’ll be dropping some solely poetic work sometime soon. And as we wait for his highly anticipated new musical project, you can also expect his hometown to be a central focus once more. As Jenkins himself says, “This city is intertwined in everything I say—I almost can’t separate it.”

Mick Jenkins for PUMA


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