In case you were wondering, the answer is yes: Mick Jenkins is still rapping about water. The Chicago rapper's use of water as a metaphor for truth — which runs clearly and consistently throughout his breakout project, The Water[s], and appears again on the album that followed, Wave[s] -- is back on The Healing Component, a commanding work that wants to let you know how just much thinking its creator has done.
"Angles" delivers one of The Healing Component's core messages: Spend some time with yourself and get to love who you look at in the mirror. The idea is hardly novel, but Jenkins insists it's worth repeating: "Man y'all don't hear me, if you've never been alone how you know yourself?/ If you ain't up on the water how you grow yourself?"
Soulection's Monte Booker, the experimental artist circle THEMpeople and Las Vegas native Cam O'bi provide production that's dreamlike but propulsive. Breathy backup vocals decorate and balance Jenkins' deep, clear timbre. But perhaps the greatest gift from "Angles" is a verse from fellow Chicago rapper Noname, who released her long-awaited solo mixtape, Telefone, this summer.
Glittery piano lays out a red carpet for her, but Noname still manages to make her entrance feel a little unexpected — her tendency to dance around downbeats is one of her signatures. She begins with a declaration: "I am absolutely, positively happy." In a society that often determines to define black womanhood exclusively by struggle and sorrow, Noname tells us she is doing just great, thank you very much. She's planning for her future. It's a future that includes money — after all, she mentions in her verse that she's saving up for an Audi, switching from the genuine to the sarcastic to keep you on your toes. It's beautiful, layered, "won't you celebrate with me?" joy.
Noname's verse also weaves in references to the Telefone track "All I Need," which is fitting, because that song has at least one other thing in common with "Angles": a hook from smooth tenor Xavier Omär, whose new album comes out soon.
In the end, "Angles" is about Jenkins' personal journey to self-love, but at times, it almost feels like a policy recommendation. And though we've heard his advice – Love yourself! Know yourself! — before, hearing it right now, as hurtful words are hurled on the national stage, feels refreshing. Kind of like water.
The Healing Component is out now on Free Nation/ Cinematic Music Group.