It’s noon on a recent Thursday in Chicago, and Mick Jenkins’ workday is nearly complete. Not that he’s a slacker by any stretch: per his recently acquired and already habitual routine, the rapper has been up since 5:00 a.m. grinding. “Yah, I be up early,” he says, sitting in a high-ceiling performance space he recently purchased in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. “If you bring me to a night session I will fall asleep. I will. I might fuck with you, and we might get something done, but I will fall asleep."”
For Jenkins, it’s all part of a long-gestating maturation process: Four years ago, with the release of his 2014 debut mixtape The Water[s] (and then its follow-up EP, 2015’s Wave[s]), the South Side Chicago emcee was being toasted as one of the hottest young talents in hip-hop. Now, on the eve of his releasing his second full-length album, the contemplative and typically forthright Pieces of a Man, which takes its name from the 1971 Gil Scott-Heron classic, Jenkins admits much of that hype has subsided. But he’s hardly complaining -- to hear him tell it, this album, this early-bird schedule, the studio we’re sitting in called WeSpace (run by his sister, London, and hosting performances and art shows by local, typically undiscovered artists), it all best explains why he’s the happiest and most fulfilled he’s ever been in his life.
“I was becoming a victim to this music life, and I peeped it,” he offers candidly of his motivation for his change in behavior and new 8:00 p.m. bedtime. Jenkins chooses to not disclose whether he personally suffered any particular physical or emotional repercussions of his life in recent years, but he rather cites seeing those within his inner circle neglecting their own bodies in service of his career as a deeply disturbing — and ultimately life-changing — observation.