Music Feeds’ Love Letter To A Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share stories about how the music they love has influenced their lives. Here, Aotearoa songwriter Harper Finn shares his affection for Mick Jenkins’ 2014 mixtape The Water[s].
Harper Finn released his debut solo EP, Newcomer, at the end of July 2022. The eight-song release includes the single ‘Dance Away These Days’, which was originally released in 2020 and has since become Finn’s signature song. The EP features songwriting and production contributions from Cole M.G.N. (Nite Jewel, Washed Out), Tobias Kuhn (The Kooks, Tash Sultana) and Sparkadia’s Alex Burnett.
Harper Finn’s love letter to Mick Jenkins’ ‘The Water[s]’
The Water[s] was the first hip hop album I fell in love with top to bottom, and it still features regularly when I’m handed the aux cord. I remember finding it on a free mixtape website in my photography class circa year 12.
I had just moved to Takapuna Grammar School and didn’t really have many friends yet. I knew some of the people in my year liked hip hop so I scoured the internet to find records and artists I could talk to them about. When I found this album I couldn’t wait to share it.
The Water[s] became a focal point of my musical relationship in my last year of school. It was an album me and my friends would use to test if someone was all right to hang with us. I remember it being the first topic of conversation I ever had with one of my oldest friends. We were both like, “You listen to Mick Jenkins?” And from that moment we became good friends. The album swept through my year group and for a good few months was the only thing we played off the shared UE Boom at lunchtime.
Songs like ‘Vibe’ and ‘Jazz’ instantly take me back to driving in the car on a weeknight, gliding through the suburban streets. A lyric from the album that I’ll never forget is, “We are not on the same plateau / Chateau de Chenonceau / You just throwing shade in my shadow.”
A perfect example of the complex wordplay Mick Jenkins had in his music. It was always a challenge for my friends who could remember and recite it all.
Mick Jenkins – ‘Martyrs’
I was just starting to get into music production, so I spent hours trying to emulate the beats from this album, sampling old jazz songs and offering the finished results to people I knew who rapped.
A few years ago, Mick Jenkins was on the Laneway lineup. It felt full circle to see him perform considering where I had discovered him. Not often do you get that experience with an artist or band where you find them on the bottom of some music website and they feel like your secret, and then a few years later see them perform in your hometown to hundreds of people.
I’m someone who attaches a lot of nostalgia to the music of my life. The melancholy feeling of time passing is what I hear now when I listen to this album. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look forward to sitting around a table in 30 years with my schoolmates and someone puts this on. I’m already trying to guess who will still remember all the lyrics.
Harper Finn – ‘Dance Away These Days’