September 24, 2014

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Will Hagle is waterproof — that means he can’t be wet

The public service announcements in Los Angeles remind us to remember our watering days. Houses with even addresses should only water their lawns Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Odd addresses can take Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Mondays we all take a break to dump buckets on our heads.

You don’t need DJ Khaled yelling in your ear to know that da drought is real. Water is sacred, and around here it is scarce. Billboards and bus stop ads encouraging conservation will suffice for now, but the Department of Water and Power should consider endorsing Mick Jenkins as their unofficial spokesman.

This theme makes The Water[s] the lucid counterpart to the haziness of Trees & Truths. Smoke still clouds Jenkins’ verses, but here it’s water that acts as the healing component.“> The THC-produced “THC” is one of the best demonstrations of Jenkins’ ability to turn meaning on its head within just a few lines.

Those same skills are applied with Jenkins’ pop culture references, which have been refined to smarter and more hilarious levels. Ben Savage or Nic Cage might be used as standalone punchlines in the hands of a lesser artist, but Jenkins tosses them out as Brees-ily as the Saints’ QB (and his own Drew Brees reference on “Shipwrecked” is much less terrible than mine).

“Martyrs” darkly flips “Strange Fruit” into a diatribe against the messages being conveyed to the country’s youth, with a tongue-in-cheek hook a la Lupe’s “Stack that cheese.” Jenkins digs deep even on more surface-level tracks like “514,” which begins as an ode to Montreal but builds to one of his best verses on the album.

On “Drink More Water” Jenkins takes a subtle shot at Riff Raff, positioning himself as the higher-quality alternative to the mindless sounds of popular rap. Of course, those claims don’t prove his sound is wholly original. Verses on “Vibe” and “Jazz” are delivered with Tyler, the Creator menace, and the Joey Bada$$-assisted “Jerome” finds Jenkins rapping about Mick Foley in his raspy Randy Savage voice. Given his usual monotone delivery, however, these attempts at switching up the style are welcomed.

The Water[s] is absurdly good, a coherent piece of work that’s dense and detailed to the core. It’s an ode to H20 both literal and metaphorical, Jenkins an advocate for the substance as enthusiastic as Bobby Boucher. Water is the theme that binds the project together, and Jenkins commits to it fully. Each track includes some sort of reminder that water is more important than gold. Jenkins never stops encouraging listeners to “Drink More Water,” even while he stays drinking ginger ale and Starbucks caramel apple spices.

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