“A lot of your realities are in your head,” Mick Jenkins yelled into the crowd at The New Parish on Thursday night.
During his performance, the hip-hop artist had a message to convey, specifically in relation to his new album, Pieces of a Man: Our lived experiences determine how we understand the world we live in.
And while the concert was at a small Oakland venue on a weeknight, the fans were crammed in with Jenkins’ lyrics and melodies already in their hearts. Whether it was shown through screaming out song requests or jumping up and down while intensely yelling, there was a camaraderie between the fans and Jenkins that characterized the night as friendly and fun. That energy was emphasized by Jenkins’ strong backup singers and his rich voice.
Throughout the night, Jenkins’ words flew out sharply. Every line he spoke sounded clear and landed with a punch. The artist’s experience as a spoken word poet shined from the stage, as his words carried great weight.
Leaving the performance, Jenkins’ lines — such as “I don’t got time to think about how I feel, for real” from the song “Stress Fracture” and “Every day I wake up thanking God” from “Grace and Mercy” — could not be easily forgotten.
Songs from Pieces of a Man such as “Gwendolynn’s Apprehension” got the audience members bobbing their heads in appreciation and kept up the coolness of the night. There were no slip-ups, no off-key moments — from his voice to the beat to the backup singing, everything seemed to click.
Though energetic, Jenkins maintained a relaxed composure throughout the night. He walked on to the stage in very casual attire — donning a red baseball cap, glasses and a white T-shirt, he maintained a powerful but controlled essence on stage.
And in addition to his new pieces, Jenkins made sure to perform some old classics, especially from his 2014 album The Waters. His most popular song “Jazz” soared, and as a tribute to his oldest fans, he took requests from the audience. This added to the connection between the artist and his crowd.
Unlike a lot of musicians, Jenkins was not staring into the distance as he performed. Instead, he made eye contact, he danced and he interacted. When Jenkins yelled “Drink,” the crowd yelled “Water.” And for the encore, Jenkins performance of Hurt Everybody’s “Social Network (Gang),” which he is featured on, prompted everyone in the crowd to jump up with Jenkins as he yelled “Gang.” This interaction made Jenkins seem like an old friend.
But the obvious stars of the show were still the songs from his newest album. Throughout these performances, one could hear the passion and force in Jenkins’ voice. Pieces of a Man is both a part of Jenkins and a representation of his whole self; thus, while the songs’ meanings jump from police brutality to stress to religion, the performance had a common thread: Jenkins’ voice.