Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Scaring the Hoes: Album Review

JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s Surprisingly Welcoming Experiment
JPEGMAFIA, Courtesy of IMDb

If you were in the crowd during Danny Brown’s performance in April 2022 at “Smoker’s Club Fest,” you were likely one of the lucky handful who jumped and yelled with glee as JPEGMAFIA made his way onto the stage as the performance consisted of an unreleased and previously unheard track.

If you are like the rest of either fanbase, you were probably a recipient of some strange looks as you jumped with excitement upon reading one of many headlines: “Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA Announce Upcoming Collaboration at Smoker’s Club Fest.” Videos of the two’s first appearance on stage together were shared throughout the internet’s hip-hop forums, and word began to spread fast. Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA announced that they were working on an album together – and by the account of this performance, it was bound to be a success.

Almost a full year after this festival, fans finally have the project in their hands and the preview we received back in April did nothing to prepare us for the wild ride that is Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA’s “Scaring the Hoes.”

Since the release of his breakout album “XXX” in 2012, Brown is known throughout the hip-hop scene as a bit of an experimentalist. His signature yelping vocal style can be rather abrasive to the untrained ear, and “XXX” had a knack for featuring instrumentals that were quite unique in the space of 2012 hip-hop. Four years later, he would cement his status as a hip-hop auditory pioneer with the release of “Atrocity Exhibition,” a brutal album which fleshed out “XXX” similar themes of drug abuse and Brown’s downward spiral by taking advantage of a sound palette so unique and twisted that many label the project as the most influential experimental hip-hop album of the 2010s.

When Barrington Hendricks, more commonly known as JPEGMAFIA or Peggy, blew the genre of experimental hip-hop wide open with his 2018 sophomore LP “Veteran,” Danny was quick to take notice. The album found traction on the internet quickly, and Peggy’s name began to gain notoriety as the premiere underground/upcoming experimental hip-hop name to watch. Topically, the album took shots at the alt-right movement, the latent white population, systemic oppression in the United States and the military industrial complex which claimed many years of Hendricks’ life.

Peggy’s refusal to pull any punches while calling out issues he saw in American society helped the album gain a fanbase, as did its undeniably wild production. Boasting solo production credits from JPEGMAFIA himself on each song, “Veteran” is a masterclass in developing an individualistic sound. The album demonstrated sampling chops the likes of which many compared to a young Kanye West, despite maintaining a tendency to be abrasive where West would be soulful.

Peggy and Brown made their first collaborative appearance on Brown’s 2019 album “uknowhatimsayin?,” where Peggy had both production credits on a bombastic song featuring Run the Jewels, as well as a guest appearance on “Negro Spiritual.” As great as this choral spot was, for many fans it just wasn’t enough. Listeners were eager to hear what more could come out of this newfound pairing.

Four years later, we have proof of their tandem abilities, and it has most certainly lived up to the hype. “Scaring the Hoes” is a victory lap for two of hip-hop’s most dedicated artists, displaying the full abilities of both, while getting across a wonderful air that the two are just having some remarkable fun. Whether it be via the fascinating production and sample work from JPEGMAFIA, or a turn away from the darker themes of many of Danny Brown’s previous works, the levity on display with this project works fully to its benefit.

Featuring titles such as “Fentanyl Tester,” “Orange Juice Jones” or “Jack Harlow Combo Meal,” it’s clear that the two are just some friends who love to make music together. The album’s title does a good deal to push this narrative as well, buying into the running joke that the two make music that isn’t suitable for parties or radio play. By embracing this humor, they have liberated themselves from any topical expectations, and developed a creative environment where the two can truly thrive.

The album kicks off with a blisteringly sped-up P. Diddy sample, and an opening line which will likely linger in the listeners head for the remainder of its 36 minute runtime: “First off, f*** Elon Musk / 8 dollars too much, b*tch, that’s expensive,” a comical jab at Twitter’s newfound CEO that points the listener’s lyrical expectations in a direction towards laughable internet references and anti-capitalist sentiments. The direction of the song shifts in a manner akin to the firing of a cannon, as a thunderous kick drum gets buried underneath a dangerously loud synthesizer hit, while Peggy shouts “This ain’t what you want!” With that the album is set off on a breakneck sprint through numerous beat switches, a plethora of samples, a deafening mix, and an assault of comical bars from the pair.

The title track “Scaring the Hoes” is a stand out hit, sampling echoing claps and a squeaky saxophone from a live performance of Dirty Beach’s “Untitled.” Brown and Peggy taunt their interpretation of the modern world of hip-hop, calling out rappers who push their brand over their music, and spit about the same cars and women over repetitive beats, in the recital of a mocking chorus: “Stop scaring the hoes / play that sh*t to have them touch their toes / we don’t wanna hear that weird sh*t no more / what the f*** is that gimme back my aux cord.”

While some lines from old man Danny Brown feel a bit out of touch, such as the wince-worthy “Where the autotune at.” The overall message of the song is clear: the pair is bored with hip-hop. They want to open up the possibilities of the genre, and they are going to let you know how much better this makes them than your favorite rapper.

Other standouts can be found in “Orange Juice Jones,” which makes use of a soulful Michael Jackson sample, “Fentanyl Tester” which features a tasteful sample of Kelis’s famous “Milkshake,” and “Run the Jewels,” a tastefully short track with a mischievous-sounding horn sample from LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali.”

Despite the album’s title, which warns of an off-putting nature, “Scaring the Hoes” opens a fairly welcoming door to those not yet versed in the realm of experimental hip-hop. By featuring both recognizable and relatively unknown samples, and blending drum and bass, jazz rap, UK jungle, glitch hop, industrial hip-hop, and countless other genres previously untapped in experimental hip-hop, JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown have crafted a project that is just as frequently hardcore as it is downright beautiful. “Scaring the Hoes” is by all accounts a success and will certainly be making an appearance on plenty of year-end music lists.

Andrew C. Freeman can be reached at [email protected].

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