Soundcloud was a savior for many high schoolers before the streaming boom. Through my friends’ playlists and lots of buffering, I heard some of my favorite rappers for the first time, and from 2014-2016, Chill-hop, conscious rap, and trap began to blend in beautiful ways.
I was hit with one wave of this nostalgia recently as Isaiah Rashad celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his Cilvia Demo with a live Spotify performance. I was hit with an even heavier wave of nostalgia as I began digging back through Mick Jenkins’s discography and floated through The Water(s) in preparation for his recent performance at the Howard Theatre.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the Howard on a rainy Sunday night in the middle of the DC winter, but my excitement for the show was shared by the audience that packed the floor. At the Howard Theatre on Jan. 28, Nigerian-Canadian hip-hop all-arounder TOBi set the tone with a smooth and uplifting opening set, and Jenkins capitalized on the crowd’s energy from the off. Based on the reception that his older songs received, I assumed that many in the audience were there to reach back into some of their high-school and college nostalgia like I was, but the show represented more than a trip down memory lane. Instead, it showed Jenkins’s quiet and steady progress as an artist.
“Then I put a thousand hours in, then ten thousand hours in. Fifty thousand hours in, it was dark in there,” Jenkins rapped in an a capella version of his new release, “2011”, which appears on the deluxe edition of The Patience. Jenkins is not merely flexing here about his hustle. This moment in the show acted like a telephoto lens; at this point, I was sitting high up in the balcony by myself, but I felt like I was six-inches away from Jenkins as he took a hushed crowd on a journey through his career.
Stream “2011” by Mick Jenkins on YouTube:
Jenkins mixed in moments of levity and honesty and excitement and flexed vocal range that I’m not sure he possessed when he first released The Water(s). He floated seamlessly over his drummer who gave the show an organic heartbeat that a DJ alone would have struggled to replicate. All in all, Jenkins reminded everyone in attendance why they were there. He’s one of the most mature and well-rounded rappers in the game. Maybe it’s his slight underdog status that keeps him constantly evolving, his hunger still evident throughout The Patience.
Or maybe, he was born to put pen to paper and entertain crowds like the one at the Howard Theatre, and he does what all the best pros do: he just keeps getting better.
Here are some photos of Mick Jenkins performing at the Howard Theatre on Jan. 28, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Gabriel Adler.