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Sample Sunday: Mick Jenkins

On his newest album, Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins explores his identity, and how he has grown since beginning his music career. Pieces of a Man is the kind of album that could be delivered on a small stage on a slam poetry night. It’s soft-spoken and hard-willed, often subversive and sensitive. In parallel to his spoken-word style, some tracks have poems interpolated into the lyrics as well. To fit the subdued mood, many of the album’s samples are from Soul and R&B tracks.

“Understood” is a nonchalant tribute to Old School Hip Hop and its lyrical depth. Its leisurely charm comes from the backing slide guitar looped throughout the entirety of the track. That guitar is a deep cut sample from French composer Jack Arel. Released in 1972, “Something Happen” is a fully instrumental track, with a soulfully laidback style. The guitar features prominently in Arel’s composition, giving it an expressive nature that amplifies “Understood” in multiple dimensions. The guitar is ‘alive’, and walks around the track in a joyous manner. Much of this track’s success comes from producer Kaytranada. The track is packaged flawlessly, with layers of intriguing elements adding to a cohesive whole. The backing beat and underlying bass add weight to the sample in an effort to create a relaxing mood.

“Something Good” has been featured by other well-known artists as well. The opening track of Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06 samples the guitar, but in a shorter section than used in “Understood.” Washed Out uses the same sample as Staples in his track “Time Off.” While these tracks sample “Something Good,” they don’t use it to the extent that Mick Jenkins does. His track is built around the sample, and it’s the reason why it sounds so unique. “Understood” features a sensational sample and utilizes it to its full extent, crafting an easygoing mood, and one of year’s best tracks.

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