(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Black Ben Carson (2016), 7.5/10
Veteran (2018), 6.5/10
All My Heroes Are Cornballs (2019), 6/10
EP (2020), 7/10 (EP)
EP2 (2021), 4.5/10 (EP)
LP (2021), 7/10
Scaring the Hoes (2023), 6.5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Baltimore's rapper Barrington "JpegMafia" Hendricks, who spent four years in the military and lives briefly in Japan, began releaseding tapes of sociopolitical topics (notably racism) such as Communist Slow Jams (2015) and Darkskin Manson (2015).

The tape Black Ben Carson (2016) is split into two sides. The "Nigger" side is the political, angry, terrorist side. It opens with two existential manifestos: Drake Era (casual colloquial recitation wrapped in horror cinematic electronics) and Jpegmafia All Caps No Spaces, (spastic beats drowning in an industrial, Nine Inch Nails-grade atmosphere). The nightmare gets darker with the abrasive neurosis of Digital Blackface, pierced by noise that sounds like a heap of scrap metal falling to the floor. The psychological attack continues with the dizzying soundscapes of Cuckold and You Think You Know, and with an intimidating and ominous tone that verges towards the criminal. Then the music disintegrates in the sparse, tense and crackling texture of Motor Mouth and especially in Black Ben Carson, the soundtrack of mental insanity. At the other end of the spectrum, the hysterical metronomic beat of Black Steve Austin reveals a deadly fever. The "Peggy" side is the introspective, confessional, diaristic side. It begins with the bleak, noir trance of I Just Killed A Cop Now I'm Horny, and then the music looks for a balance of drama and trauma via songs like Plastic, a hybrid of tribal dance and musique concrete, Boi, a chill ambient psychedelic collage, LL Cool J, a deranged tribute in a mental asylum, Face Down Ass Up, a theater of distorted electronics and vocals, and Try Me, the most harrowing convergence of apocalyptic beats, sci-fi electronics and surgical recitation. Inevitably this second side tends to be more verbose and less musical. The album overflows with original ideas and the convoluted, corrosive production works like dynamite that blows up those ideas.

The 19-song album Veteran (Deathbomb Arc, 2018) is as varied as inconsistent, spread out on a vast spectrum of audio collages, bust most of them barely sketched. We journey from the lounge muzak of 1539 N. Calvert to the demented hysteria of Real Nega, from the joyful carillon of I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies to the machine-gun vocal manipulation of Baby I'm Bleeding, from the booming void of Williamsburg (possibly the most disorienting piece) to the slow grotesque zombie fanfare of Rainbow Six. His idea of a soul song is the android singing over chaotic percussion of Thug Tears. Some of the arrangements border on musique concrete, like the warped aquatic reverbs of Rock N Roll Is Dead. The beats of DD Form 214 and Libtard Anthem sound like field recordings manipulated at the computer.

The 18-song All My Heroes Are Cornballs (2019) further diluted the impact of his production technique. The chaotic vocal assault of Jesus Forgive Me I Am a Thot is hardly matched by the new-age atmosphere of Grimy Waifu. Hendricks opts for a more user-friendly format: the soul-hop of Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind and Free the Frail. One recognizes the ebullient creativity of Black Ben Carson only in the imploding magma of Prone. Again, many of these short pieces are barely sketched. Inevitably, the experience feels fragmented and much of the album feels ("fills?") like filler.

EP (2020) contains a prime example of his warped glitch-hop, Bald, plus the tribal bacchanal Covered in Money, the acrobatic boom-bap beat of Cutie Pie, the disjointed jazzy The Bends, and the hybrid neosoul ballad Living Single.

EP2 (2021) was a far more trivial offering. Only Panic Room replicates the deviant mood of the previous EP.

The 20-song LP (2021) represents another peak of Hendricks' painstakingly unorthodox composition method. The minimalist strategy of the breezy Trust and Nemo indirectly emphasizes their dadaistic arrangements. The disorienting clockwork beat of Dirty and the collage whirlwind Hazard Duty Pay are the zenith of that creative process. His deconstructivism occasionally yields totally deranged songs like Tired Nervous & Broke (between cosmic/industrial noise and casual conversation), but mostly results in surprisingly cohesive vignettes. The soaring and bombastic End Credits complements the chaotic and subdued Are U Happy. His flow is not the best in the world, but shines in Rebound and BMT.

Jpegmafia and Danny Brown collaborated on Scaring the Hoes (2023), entirely produced by Barrington. Jpegmafia indulges in the usual cauldron of dense chaotic beats, and Brown's addition simply gives it a humorous spin from the beginning (the Zappa-esque Steppa Pig with sci-fi overtones, the demented musichall skit Scaring the Hoes). Jpegmafia is a master at maximizing the effect of his deformed samples, which results in adventurous collages like Garbage Pale Kids. At the same time, the duo creates vocal fantasies that pit Barrington's hardcore fury against Brown's cartoonish wit (plus assorted sampled voices for further polyphony and counterpoint), best in Fentanyl Tester. The album sags in the middle and towards the end but the post-soul hymn Kingdom Hearts Key, the propulsive post-gospel riot of God Loves You and the tropical implosion of Where Ya Get Ya Coke From? easily rescue it. Half of the album contains some of the best music Jpegmafia has produced. The other half is disposable filler.

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )