Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins talks about his newfound freedom as an independent artist, his first time smoking weed, and expanding his business in the booming cannabis industry.
The post Mick Jenkins Is Finally Doing Whatever He Wants appeared first on High Times.
For the better part of the last decade, Chicago-bred rapper Mick Jenkins has proved himself to be one of the best pure lyricists in the game. With a vicious pen that’s truly mightier than any sword, a dedicated cult-like following that spans across the globe, respect from his peers on both sides of the mainstream and underground market, he’s had a longer and more sustainable career than most rappers do.
Despite all of this, like similar independent artists before him, Mick’s brand of smooth laid-back raps over jazzy instrumentals has been largely underappreciated by major music media outlets and mainstream hip-hop fans alike, and his patience with all of that quite frankly has worn thin. The Patience is less an album about the virtues of patience as it is Mick expressing the frustration of he’s experienced from a myriad of topics, from his constrictive label situation at Cinematic Records to rappers who are seemingly unable to rap about anything other than shallow materialism. This frustration spills over the most in standout tracks like “Pasta” and “Guapanese” with him literally shouting his bars. The end result has ultimately produced what could potentially be the best music of Mick’s already impressive catalog.
One of the core elements of his music lies in his open love for cannabis. The JID-assisted “Smoke Break-Dance” was the first single released for The Patience, providing mellow stoner vibes that’s more aligned with the sound of previous projects. When it comes to the list of all-time great weed rappers—or artists who just rap about cannabis more frequently/better than the average MC—Mick definitely belongs in the conversation. He has taken this appreciation for the plant even a step further beyond music, starting his own legal weed brand back in 2020 with The Healing Component (named after one of his albums) in collaboration with Trap House Connection in Washington state.
I had the chance to chop it up with Mick via zoom. I puffed on a hand-made donut hole with Honey Banana flower and Jenny Kush live rosin while he casually smokes on a joint of Mountain Sage by Cannabiotix as he shares the inside scoop of his new album, and his budding weed enterprise.
Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel to finally be free from your previous label and make the project you wanted without constraints?
Thank you. I’m just trying to do my own artistry and be independent in the business, and now that I have that experience, it feels good to put my first ideas and iterations in action. From the music to the videos to the rollout to all the extra content that we have to surround and build out this world. It’s all a product of me and my manager’s thoughts, with help from RBC [Records] and BMG that I’m signed to now. And so what people are seeing is a direct reflection of that. I couldn’t really ask for more in my situation with fairness, unless niggas just wanna give me a million dollars for no reason (laughs).
So, in that regard, I’m happy. Life is lifeing. That happens to everybody, but I’m pretty happy even with my connection to this music. I do feel like this is the first time where I’ve done everything I wanted to do.
You’ve got some notable features on this project. You’ve mentioned in interviews how you formed an organic relationship with each guest, but I’m curious on how you even chose to have those artists on The Patience?
I don’t, bro. It’s who’s available. And whose time is free when your time is free. I think people misunderstand that a lot. You don’t just get to choose who you want. Like you choose what you want and then see if it’s possible. And a lot of times it’s not possible so you got to pivot to other people. A lot of the time like, if I had who I wanted on here, I don’t know if any of these niggas [would] be on here. But it’s because like I can’t get Andre 3000 bro, like I don’t know Kendrick, Earl hasn’t hit me back in like a year, you feel me? (laughs).
But, I know JID. We send music back and forth. We push each other’s pens back and forth. We send each other unreleased shit. I’ve been a fan of Vic for a long time, you know what I’m saying. He’s gone through a huge change in his life and we started talking on just real organic shit in that way. Freddie finally hit me back after I had been messaging him in the middle of night at like 2:30 in the morning, like ‘Yo, I’m about to do this record.’ I’m like, “Oh, shit that’s crazy!’ You know what I’m saying, just like, shit like that. Whereas a lot of times in my past, I found myself campaigning for shit that didn’t even happen, ya’ feel me? This time, all I did was kind of like, let people know what I had going on. And they was just like, ‘Oh yeah, I gotcha.’ So it’s refreshing because well, I’m sure you already know as a journalist trying to chase rappers for interviews is crazy. Tryna chase niggas down for 16 bars is even crazier, I promise you.
Switching gears to weed, you have a line from The Water[s] where you say “Told myself I’d never be a smoker/Fail, watch me inhale” and it always makes me laugh because I also used to be a straight edge kid in high school. So I’m just curious as to what your first time smoking was like and what are your go-to strains today?
I’m a sativa guy, first and foremost. I love indica too, but I just can’t smoke it all day. Tangie is my favorite, and there’s a lot of derivatives. I just had some really good Haze from Verde Natural. They sent it to me, and usually when people send me weed, I don’t ever say anything about it, but I haven’t had any Haze that looked, smelled, tasted this good, and gave me that even-keel high like a Haze does like that in a while. I had to hit them up like ‘Yo, this is amazing,’ so shout out Verde Natural. But yeah, [Tangie and Haze] are the two go-to strains, and then some indica for the night.
My first time smoking I was 17 at the time. I was by myself, I didn’t know how to roll, so I stuffed a Black & Mild. It was pretty fluffy weed so it was easy to break down, whereas if it was that dense ass weed I would have been lost as to what to do because I didn’t know anything about a grinder. But it was pretty fluffy so I was able to break it down and toss it in there. I hit it twice and it was just so nasty out of that fucking Black & Mild that I didn’t hit it again, and I wouldn’t smoke again until my freshman year of college. And that time I got high as fuck with some homies. There was like a dip-off off campus and we just kind of sat there in silence while listening to music. But that first time is fucking hilarious. My big cousin Jordan used to smoke and I used to look at him like ‘Eww, I can’t believe you smoke weed.’ (laughs)
I know you also have your own brand in the industry. Truth be told, you were one of the first Chicago rappers to ever have your own legal cannabis brands even before Vic Mensa started 93 Boyz. How did you venture into that business?
Yeah, so it’s The Healing Component and Trees & Truth. We’re operating out of Washington—Seattle, specifically—but we’re all over the state. Right now we’re trying to get connected with some growers so that we can get into the markets in L.A. and Illinois, specifically. You know that’s a process in and of itself. But I worked on it with my mans Blake. He approached me while I was on tour with Davido in Seattle and he dropped off some gas. He was like ‘Yo, I’m not giving you weed because I want you to smoke it, I want to work with you.’ He was saying how he thought The Healing Component was a good play on THC and that it could make a good brand, and that he ran Trap House Connections and worked with nine other brands. I was like aight, smoked that shit and it was gas (laughs)…
And now it’s doing pretty well! We’ve been working together for like four or five years. I came back recently to our farm in Yakima, Washington. I went on a dispensary tour and met all the people selling our product, so it was just interesting to see everything from top to bottom. It started with me just doing marketing, because obviously like I said he was running a few different brands already. So it’s nothing for him to just essentially like choose some flower and slap my name on it, essentially. But now we’ve got like our own strains that we’ve been cultivating. And that’s been the most difficult thing, like trying to get somebody that can grow the same way as we grow in different states. For Illinois, when it comes to the weed in dispensaries, you completely recognize the difference in quality and that just has to do with what’s available and a lot of other variables. So, we’re still growing. We want it to be a partnership. I told him I was like not super concerned about taking profits in the beginning. Because I wanted to actually be in this world and I knew I had a lot to learn. I knew that I didn’t know.
Cannabis has always been a big part of your music. From your first project being Trees & Truth with “tree” being a weed reference, The Healing Component is abbreviated THC, even the first single from the new project is “Smoke Break-Dance.” I feel like you’re one of the best when it comes to quote-unquote “stoner rappers” with the likes of Curren$y, Wiz, Cypress Hill and Snoop. But the way in which you rap about weed a lot of times is so clever and subtle, I feel like it goes over people’s heads so they may not immediately think of your name in that category. Is that intentional?
I try to do that. Even with “Smoke Break,” I feel like a lot of times I make songs like this, it’s like okay, you’re making another smoking song. How are you gonna make this different? I think though, that question kind of leads me to talking about [weed] in the unconventional ways that I do. Just because if I don’t do that, then it’s going to be a lot of the same. And that’s not a knock to anybody. That’s just me trying to push my own creativity. I’m definitely a stoner, so it’s definitely gonna come out of my raps. I just tried to make sure there’s variance, so I’m not saying the same thing over and over because you know, it’s just smoking. It’s not like there’s that much to it.
Yeah, my favorite smoking song from you is “Percy” and it’s a shame it’s not on streaming (currently only available on YouTube). That’s one of my favorite songs ever, period. I know you also directed the video for that, so what was that whole experience like?
That’s my favorite song too. Me and Qari just made that song on the fly, and I think everything else about it was on the fly. It wasn’t anything too crazy, obviously. But that was my first time [directing a music video] so I didn’t give myself too much pressure. I just wanted to do something like all the way through. And that’s why it was released as a single. We didn’t worry about clearing the sample or anything, which is why we don’t have it on streaming. It was just something I wanted to do for myself. Me and Qari both snapped on the verses, and I do think it’s a shame. There’s a few songs that I have that I’m like, ‘Damn, I should have treated that right.’ Should have gave that one a proper release, you know, but yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorites.
What is the influence of cannabis in your life outside of music? I personally feel like it has some spiritual and healing properties.
I mean to me, it’s just something I like to do. There’s some escapism. It has some relieving properties for sure. Like it’s a relief for me at times. But, I mean, I’ve had to reduce how much I’m smoking because I recognized that I was smoking too much. At one point I was smoking an ounce a week for real. I know people who smoke more than that, but it’s just like that’s too much. That was too much for me. Especially because I’m married, you know what I’m saying? I have a crib I gotta pay for, it was too much so, I’ve had to reduce how much I smoke at different periods in my life. It’s just some habitual shit though. I don’t know that the amount of healing that I get from it outweighs the reality that I just like to get high (laughs).
At least you’re honest, man. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. In keeping with the theme of the album, do you feel like weed makes you more patient? What do you do to take care of yourself?
No, no, it’s just something to do while I wait. It can definitely calm me down while I’m trying to be patient. But I think patience is more than how you feel. I think it is an action. I think it is a doing of a thing. So I don’t think it really makes me more patient.
I hoop a lot, but recently I fucked around and tore my LCL. But yeah, I hoop, I hike, sometimes I skate, I go to the beach a lot. I live in L.A. now so it’s just there’s a lot to do outside so I be outside. I’m definitely a nature dude, I go on picnics a lot with my wife. We walk a lot. We take walks around at the park like around the track and shit. So I do a lot of different physical shit, just tryna stay healthy.
Let’s talk about hip-hop. I was listening to your Fader interview, and you spoke on the frustration about the lack of love that the underground has been getting from all these so-called celebrations of hip-hop at mainstream shows. So I just wanted to ask you, who are just some underground names you want to give love to, whether they’re current or old school?
Hi-Tek, a producer from Cincinnati, fucking amazing. Little Brother, Phonte never get the flowers he deserves even though a lot of niggas inspired by Phonte. My nigga Rhymefest from Chicago. Definitely, The Cool Kids don’t get the credit they deserve and they really fucked the culture up. I don’t know why my R&B nigga BJ The Chicago Kid don’t get no love, but now this is turning into a Chicago list.
I fuck with Mach-Hommy heavy on some rap shit. He’s one of the newest rappers in the last five years where I’m like this is crazy. I don’t know if these guys are underrated because I just started listening to them, but Coast Contra—they’re crazy—it’s like five of them in there. A lot of the old heads I listen to are lit, so they’re not underrated. They for sure don’t get the love they deserve, but they’re legends now so it don’t even matter. Oh, and my dawg SLLIME, Sllime Ghoulie, Sllime64 (Chicago-based producer/rapper and Mick’s long-time tour DJ).
When are we getting the greenSLLIME and Mick collab project?
Oh, that’s next! Facts.
Word?! Other than that, what else is next for you? Any final words you want to share?
Music, music, a lot of music. A lot of content surrounding music. I’m dropping music, period.
Thank you for having me. I am trying to go to the High Times Cannabis Cup. I need to be a panelist or judge or something so maybe you can plug me (laughs).