It’s 7:10 on Halloween Night. The dance floor of Grelle Forelle, a small club in Vienna’s 9th district, is nearly empty. As time drags along, slowly people begin to congregate around the stage at the front of the room. Everyone is in a good mood, partially because of the festive Halloween spirit, partially because of the clouds of cannabis hanging in the air.
All at once there is a surge towards the stage as the first act comes on. Noah Slee, a rapper from New Zealand has just stepped on the stage and begins doing his set of songs, including a remix of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” and Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson.” After Noah Slee finishes his set, the crowd settles down once again and waits for the main act to begin. After a short while, everyone grows restless and begins to chant, to my dismay, “Drink more water! Drink more water!” Finally, at around 9:15, Mick Jenkins steps out on stage, and the crowd erupts in cheers.
Mick Jenkins is a rapper from the Southside of Chicago, a place that has spit out other notable rappers such as Kanye West and Chief Keef, and he is currently completing his first headlining world tour. He has been praised for his very lyrically complex songs, original flow and message of positivity. Jenkins frequently references water as a motif to represent love, because of its purity and fluidity. One of his hit songs, called “Jazz,” begins with the line, “Drink more water, or you might die…”
The crowd is ecstatic as they hear the first few xylophone-esque chords blare over the speakers. The whole room echoes Jenkins’ verses and begins bouncing along to his music. After “Jazz” is done playing, Jenkins addresses the crowd and begins thanks us for supporting his music. He breaks down the song for us and tells us how when writing it, he wanted water to be synonymous with truth.
Despite his large, loping body flinging itself around the stage, Jenkins really has embodied the positive and poetic rapper that he is perceived to be. Looking past his glazed, red eyes and the profanity in some of his songs, his message of love and positivity really shines through.
As Jenkins completes his set of songs, he continues to emphasize positivity, prompting the crowd with, “Drink more…” to which everyone yells “Water!” in response. He continuously urges the crowd to “spread love” and appreciate all that life can offer.
Before the last song, Jenkins tells the crowd that his final song is going to be the one where he expects everyone to “turn up.” He thanks us for being such a respectful and fun audience and hopes that we can consider us to be family. With that, he explains the hook, or repeated verse, saying that it’s essentially repeating the word “gang” roughly 13 times.
As the song starts, the energy that has been welling up in the crowd the whole night is about ready to be released, almost like when the lid of a pot is removed and all the steam escapes at once. There are four lines before the hook begins and by the time Jenkins has finished the lines, the crowd has just gone insane. So much so that the people in the front row were holding onto the barrister, hoping not to get pulled into the massive mosh pit forming in front of the stage.
As the hook progresses, the venue is filled with the sound of over a hundred people chanting “gang” along with Jenkins. Jenkins begins his first verse, claiming that what he’s singing about is “…really a song about being with all of my friends”. That statement is made all the more clear when I look around me and see all of the smiling faces hands bouncing in rhythm to the music.
I turn back to face Jenkins and I realize that I too am beaming, ear to ear. As the song comes to an end, Jenkins thanks the crowd once again and bounds offstage. His DJ plays a couple of songs to wane some of the energy out of the crowd. As the shouts of “Zugabe!” begin to subside, eventually people filter out into the cloakroom and then on into the streets, feeling pleased with a most excellent performance by Mick Jenkins.
The following video is from a different concert but the gist of what he says is the same as his performance in Vienna. Be warned that this is only for mature audiences: