Mick Jenkins Credit: Bryan Lamb

With his 2014 breakout release, The Water[s], Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins demonstrated that his complex vision and deep lyrics benefit from the large canvas of a full-length record. That said, he cooks on EPs too. At the top of January, he dropped The Circus (Free Nation/Cinematic Music Group), which despite running less than 20 minutes provides him with plenty of time for clever verses. Atop the sleepy synths of “Different Scales,” Jenkins surveys hip-hop’s complicated landscape, framing his observations with a reference to Chief Keef’s underground staple “Faneto”: “Sosa been call this shit here the zoo,” he raps with levelheaded clarity and an unruffled flow. “Multiple elephants in the room, ain’t nothing new / Poachers done settled in, they using sedatives, too.” Investing in his craft and community has taken Jenkins far, and will no doubt carry him further.   v