Mick Jenkins discusses institutional issues and his upbringing in “The Trees.”
As Jenkins says in the outro, rap is just an amalgamation of his personality. His raw unadulterated thoughts come out when he releases something. First, Jenkins boasts to be the hardest working rapper today, but that he does not pay attention to others’ perceptions of him.
Approach is so analytical, sinning like fuck a cynic
My, nigga, we heavy on the grind
Burdens like boulders and sitting so heavy on my mind
Curdled my shoulders from sitting so heavy in this shine
Still, his success does not come without its cons. Being at the top means that he has to look out for snakes or people who try to surpass him. Consistent with Mick Jenkins’ other projects, the Alabama-born rapper makes a couple of biblical references in his work (“It’s like the garden of Eden, in my city fam!”).
Alongside that, Jenkins has not become faded. He refers to other people who see the trees and leaves, but he sees the roots. He prefers to look at why things happen instead of looking at the results. This is also most likely a reference to institutional racism which has plagued Jenkins and other fellow black artists throughout their lives and careers.
Deeper into the song, Jenkins shifts the focus to his childhood. His mom wasn’t able to be around all the time, be it due to work or illness, while his father was barely there for him at all. There is a particularly witty line where Jenkins shows off good numberplay in comparing 95 (the year he started grinding—although this is slightly odd given that he was born in 1991) and 10-57, the police scanner code for a missing person.
Finally, Jenkins ridicules street gangs (most likely the ones in Chicago given the fact that he has been based in the Windy City since a very young age after his mother’s diagnosis).
For those familiar with Mick Jenkins’ last two major projects, “The Trees” resembles The Water[s] more so than The Healing Component because of its introspective, thoughtful nature. A great message coupled with a mellow beat makes this a must-listen.