Smooth nerd rap is usually…Boring. But not Chi-town Mick Jenkins’ new album. It’s a stream-of-consciousness record about becoming a man, being a man, and, even more, being a black man. The beats alternate between moody and jazzy (and check out “Heron Flow 2”). Atmospheric. Especially on the track, “Barcelona.”

The lyrics are never tough–they’re full of insight and compassion, intellect and wit. And the vast majority of it is just Mick, which I respect. Corinne Bailey Rae makes a brief appearance, Ghostface is on a cut and so is BadBadNotGood, and there are a few other guests, but they’re truly guests. The spot stays on Jenkins, and the album is better for it because it feels like an actual album–not a collection of singles. Ironically, “Pieces of a Man” feels like a comprehensive whole.

A most excellent album.

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