JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown
Scaring the Hoes
ABOVE THE CURRENT
Perhaps the phrase “avant-garde rap” will scare off Drizzy lovers and Future fans, but too bad—what radically caffeinated and overheated emcees Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA do on a regular basis is manically freeform and thoroughly leftfield. If that’s true of how they operate on their own, imagine the raucous interplay of a joint album such as this. If Scaring the Hoes was a jazz record, it would come from Anthony Braxton, not Dave Brubeck—simple as that. Free as that. Noisy as that, too.
With a conjoined set of lyrics touching on the scatological and the non-sequiturial (rap’s braggadocio of sex and consumerism meets bleak existentialism meets cryptocurrency), Brown seems to take the lead when it comes to the eerily and goofily comic on tracks such as “Burfict!” (I believe he’s coughing the lines “I’m weed whack / I’m a stand up”) and “Scaring the Hoes” (“Where the AutoTune at?”). But don’t count out JPEG when it comes to the laugh lines (“First, fuck off, Elon Musk / Eight dollars too much”).
Beyond hoping to make sense of their colorful, druggy lyrical palate, the pair’s new duet album is about matching the textures of each rapper’s vocals to that of the tracks’ instrumental vibe; finding a way to place JPEG’s bark and Brown’s whinnying to a scorched-earth soundscape that includes breezy jazz breaks and broken-angled rhythms (“Jack Harlow Combo Meal”), moments of holy-rolling R&B (“God Loves You”), metallic combine-churning (“Fentanyl Tester”), and such.
How one fast, frantic rapper—let alone two—could parse the cluttered sonic landscape of chanted Japanese vocals, scratching DJs, grungy guitars, noisy horn bolts, and splinted drum sound, all sped up and slowed down without schematic or reason, and make something as cohesive as Scaring the Hoes is a form of alchemical magic that modern day hip-hop too rarely allows.