If you are a music fan from the suburbs, the way you initially encountered music is ugly and quotidian. Instead of encountering a music scene in proximity to where you live or some wise man running a cool record shop, your taste is formed by Guitar Hero, the radio, and copying your siblings. My brother’s taste in music was centered around rap. He became obsessive about it, delving into more obscure rappers through the internet, embarrassingly blaring his mix CDs in the car as we rolled into our high school parking lot. At first I elicited the classic younger sibling response by pretending to hate his music, but this is where the art of copying your older sibling formed an important part of my music taste and maybe even my personal growth. I seemed to gain something from his music that the long haired indie-rock bros of my own music library couldn’t provide me. There was a sense of authority specifically pertaining to a marginalized voice that invigorated me. Both of us needed this confidence to survive being awkward brown kids at an athletic, white public high school.
To this day, I continue to copy my brother’s music taste. One of my favorite rappers I listen to because of him is Mick Jenkins, and I decided to make up for being an annoying copier by giving him a free ticket to the show as I reviewed it. So during a listless winter break day, my brother and I ventured north of our suburb to see Mick Jenkins perform. Mick Jenkin’s newest album Pieces of Man is too introspective of a work to not reflect on yourself when you experience him performing it. We both felt old and nostalgic, which was due to a combination of listening to Mick Jenkins’ own self-reflection and our crusty 20-something-year-old selves back at The Bluebird Theater, a vital setting of our adolescent weekends. To amplify this feeling was Mick Jenkin’s intensity, wisdom, and piecing together of himself on stage. In introducing the song “Ghost,” he told the crowd that these days he is focused on his work and relationship, emphasizing his need for personal space:
“You never really see me out, I be on the road
Or I be in the crib, when I’m not on the road
I’m working on my penmanship, and my relationship
I put in hard work, you cannot fake this shit”
While his lyrics were introspective and seemed to reflect a wish for a quieter life, his set still had the high energy of a good rap concert. He was backed by an amazing live band, and his audience reflected the high energy back. The juxtaposition of his reflective lyrics and the band’s energy made his set complex and enjoyable. A highlight to the concert was his talented opener Kari Faux. I had first encountered her via Insecure’s soundtrack and instantly became a fan of her relatable lyrics and catchy beats. Her set was more carefree than Mick Jenkins’, yet I still resonated with the themes of her songs on a serious level. A favorite of mine was her performance of “Fantasy,” an anti-muse bop. Overall the concert was as fun as a good concert should be, but also made me think. Mick Jenkins piecing together of himself was a reminder of how integral memory is to music and the ritual of performing it. I can’t write about music without exorcising some reflection of my mundane past and putting moments like these in a sort of lineage and continuation of it.
(Picture credits to Trey Karson http://bolderbeat.com/photo-galleries/2019/1/16/mick-jenkins-at-bluebird-theatre-021519)