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Without sounding too cliché, the Chicago-by-way-of-Alabama-hailing artist Mick Jenkins has definitely flooded the market with his poignant and reflective lyrics, wrapped in all types of symbolism and added to his own deep soulful vibe and a touch of funk — all of which making his journey from 2013’s Trees and Truths to last year’s critically acclaimed mixtape, The Water[s] and the most recent EP Waves a more than enjoyable ride. This year he’s toured with French alt-R&B producer Stwo, Cinematic label mate and Pro Era member Kirk Knight, and now he’s embarking on his European headline tour in celebration of his latest release, the uplifting Wave[s], which has easily sold out a few dates already.
The squad is delayed getting to the first promo stop, arriving around noon over in Hackney, East London. First order of the day is a photoshoot with CRACK magazine at MOTH Club — originally a members club for military veterans — it’s now one of those trendy nightspots tucked away in a back street. The place smells as old as it looks and having entered the main hall which has been recently refurbished with red-cushioned booths dotted around, a pool table and stage complete with tinsel effect backdrop spelling out MOTH, we’re greeted by DJ Green Slime, busy wrapping a spliff and The Mind or Ziggy tapping away at his MacBook whilst taking advantage of the WiFi and charging opportunity.
Considering the 6a.m. start time, followed by a five-hour drive down from Leeds this morning, everyone is in good spirits. Our photographer Liam questions Slime on his supply of Backwoods and lets him know that we’ve been trying to hunt down more for their arrival; his eyes widen as he begins to contemplate the fact he could run out, although he has a whole box with him. It’s around ten minutes before a sleeping Mick Jenkins, whose 6-foot 5-inch frame is currently consuming a whole booth, instinctively heads over and introduces himself. He is dressed in an elongated navy blue bomber jacket, collarless pinstripe shirt, ripped stonewash jeans and leather olive green desert boots. Ziggy jokes that he forgot the flat brush — the one thing he had to remember according to the bagless Mick — but it’s nothing as he pulls it out of his backpack enabling Mick to get instantly photoshoot fresh and spring into action for the lens.
Sensing everyone is half-asleep; I nervously fill the room with Kelela’s Hallucinogen EP relaxing after getting an approving, “this is my sh*t” from Ziggy. After their little smoke break, the pub livens up as UK PR’s Imran and Grant, drummer Noah and tour manager Max (who tries to introduce me again to Mick) return from the local chicken shop.
Mick’s shoot is pretty simple and once he spots the pool table, he has to play. He wins and we’re off to the next spot, Vice magazine’s pub, The Old Blue Last to film Mick’s “Noisey’ vs The People” feature. Looking the wrong way as he tries to cross the road, Mick strides into the traffic and calmly into the pub with the rest of the team trailing behind laughing at his brazenness — he tells me that’s the second time he’s done that.
As he sound checks, the only sign of jetlag and general tiredness appears when he tries to recall what he had for breakfast, there’s a pretty long pause before anything springs to mind. The YouTube comments are all pretty low key as expected because, I mean, who has anything bad to say about Mick Jenkins? Not that he cares anyway. During filming, he taps on his legs and picks at the rips on his jeans whilst reading a YouTube comment from a South African fan praising him and using the word “legendary” to describe his appreciation. It’s clear Jenkins isn’t either comfortable or used to this sort of adulation just yet as he just pauses. Taken aback slightly he manages to throw out, “I don’t know what else to say other than, thank you,” with a huge grin, shaking his head before swiftly moving on to the next question.
Downstairs it seems the allure of two pubs in a row have Slime and Ziggy trying “a proper pint in a proper pub,” Ziggy says in his best attempt at a Cockney accent. We’re leaving so he’s forced to down the last half and place the glass upside down over his head, like any proper Brit would we tell him. It doesn’t exactly go down too well and Mick makes sure he captures the moment for Snapchat.
A break between promo and getting wind of clothes shops in the vicinity, Mick is all-over stopping in at Carharrt. “I like travelling but I never pick out where I’m going to go, I just walk around and see what…” he literally reverses as the window of A Child Of The Jago (Vivienne Westwood’s sons shop I tell him) catches his eye. It’s a swift in and out job though — he doesn’t quite know what’s he’s looking for. He’s not actually looking for anything really but he’ll know when he sees it. A quick try of some camel brown trousers skimming way above the ankle — “that’s the way I like it” — and he buys the size up without trying them before the dungarees behind the cash desk seek him out. “Damn that is fire, bet they don’t have that in my size though.” They don’t, as it’s part of the women’s collection but it doesn’t stop the 24 year-old insisting they’re fire. His face straightens up as the rest of the team laugh about his last pair of dungarees that a girl had tailored for him, “Yo, she ain’t that nice bro,” he says seriously, still bemused by the cut of the bespoke dungarees. From the torso to the knees, they were jacked.
Green Slime is after some authentic baggy Wu-Tang-era dungarees to wear with his Timbs and somehow the chatter about filling the dungarees moves on to one of his friends who he jokes was trying to get swole when he was locked up one time for two hours. This prompts Mick to intervene with his own tale — caught with a gram or so of weed back in Alabama and unable to redeem his “get out of jail free card,” he was locked up for 34 days. “I tried to get swole for like five days and then I was like, ‘F*ck it.’ I ended up 30 lbs lighter, I wasn’t getting that meat bro, that sh*t is like currency in there!”
Understandably he doesn’t really like talking of focusing on it because it shouldn’t have even happened but amongst his homies he’s cool to recall a moment or two. Besides, a healthy amount of The Water[s] was either written or began during that time so all wasn’t lost.
“Yeah, I’m a shopaholic,” he says as we continue on the impulsive shopping trip. “I don’t really like shopping, like this is what I’m like, in and out.” It’s no surprise that someone who’s so particular about what he says on record, is so particular about his style. He slyly dreads the next shoot because he know it’s a full photoshoot and he hates that, especially because sometimes the stylist does not even involve him in the styling conversations. As he decides to swerve lunch and continue shopping, we head down to the vintage shops in the heart of Brick Lane. “I could easily make a load of T-shirt’s saying ‘Drink More Water’ but why would I do that? I’m working on something with a designer at the moment for my own range. I even bought a sewing machine but it’s still in the box because I’ve been too busy. I can sew though, my grandma taught me when I was younger; I used to make pajamas and jumpers”. That explains his love for vintage and overall just being different — it’s really important to him that he stands out.
There’s an impromptu smoke break before heading to the next shoot and a moment for him to connect to WiFi to upload all their pics onto Instagram. Thankfully the styling is on point, as Mick approves the country gent-look the magazine has picked out for him. The tweed three-piece has him dropping all sorts of golf poses and laughing that hearty laugh that almost becomes a soundtrack to the day. The entire shoot is outside and everyone is clearly getting tired and cold as we trek along the canal and around the back streets of Camden.
A bag full of Nicce, Armor Lux, Crep Protect, and orders from Native Youth and Android Homme set to arrive on Wednesday, Mick heads back to his hotel happy. Check back in tomorrow for another installment of the tour diary as we start to unravel Mick and his music ahead of his debut London gig.
Words by Nardene Scott
Photography by Liam Ricketts