Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA Blow Shit Up on 'SCARING THE HOES'

BY Wesley McLeanPublished Mar 28, 2023

Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA are hip-hop's most evenly matched odd couple. A duo known individually for their signature off-kilter styles, both have cemented themselves as mainstays in the modern indie and alternative rap scenes. Brown spent the 2010s as one of the decade's most revered and critically-acclaimed artists, with a four-album run that would cement him as an all-time great if he retired today. JPEGMAFIA on the other hand broke through late in the decade with the release of 2018's Veteran but has remained a permanent fixture in the genre since, soaking in critical acclaim every step of the way.

With SCARING THE HOES, the pair have come forth with a dizzying collection of songs that feel like an all-out assault on the senses. It's a frantic affair that spits in the face of convention and serves up a massive middle finger to the modern landscape of hip-hop and its genre tropes. The album is an abrasive, unapologetic and somewhat self-indulgent foray into its own experimental and industrial sound, with two artists basking in just how weird they can let themselves get.

At its core, this is a phenomenally produced record. JPEGMAFIA's ability to forge these undeniably hard, speaker-knocking instrumentals that are simultaneously muddled and grimy messes is his superpower. Sure, he can be an enthralling presence on the mic when he wants — he possesses versatile flows, a diverse array of vocal inflections and nearly unmatchable energy — but his true strength is that he's a one-of-one producer behind the boards.

Every instrumental on SCARING THE HOES is a combination of parts that should make absolutely no sense together, but are somehow crafted into extremely textured, noisy and experimental soundscapes that support some incredible performances. The introductory "Lean Beef Patty" begins with a pitched-up sample of Diddy's "I Need a Girl Pt. 2" gradually sped up to what feels like 100x speed before devolving into a mess of pixelated chirps that launches into a bass-heavy, 808-laden break as JPEGMAFIA exclaims "This ain't what you want!" before devolving further into a state of complete disorder. On paper, these ingredients sound like a recipe for disaster, but in practice they make for a track that accents its creator's visceral aggression and extremely high energy.

That liveliness is the album's most consistent and infectious strength; both parties attack every instrumental head-on, navigating their way through the frenzied soundscape with a strong sense of control over the chaos. Brown specifically sounds right at home over these oddball beats that he appears eagerly prepared for every fuzzy synth and distorted sample that's thrown his way. He's made a career of his continued chameleonic ability to rap over any and everything; it's a trait that's helped him stake his claim as one of the genre's all-time greats, and it's on full display here.

Whether cracking jokes about eating ass like Canibus on "Garbage Pale Kids." or establishing his dominance in hip-hop with the opening lines of "Shut Yo Bitch Ass Up / Muddy Waters" ("I don't rap circles around n****s, I do figure eights"), Brown is always in his element. He's the star of this record on the rapping front, and rightfully so — he's got a commanding presence and has the lion's share of quotable lines on the project, though JPEGMAFIA is no slouch either. The pair bring the best out of each other, as their stylistic differences (and the few similarities) complement one another undeniably well. 

While they do both approach their music quite differently, they also occupy a similar space in the genre as outsiders relative to their peers. This unholy union feels like a means to embrace that otherness that they share, and in doing so, dismiss the sect of mainstream hip-hop that adheres to contemporary conventions and trends. 

The album's title track is the song that exemplifies this feeling the most clearly, as Brown and JPEGMAFIA satirically criticize their music for its lack of mainstream appeal and accessibility for playlists and clubs. Brown's verse particularly touches on the subject in a very personal manner, speaking from the perspective of an elder statesman in the genre who's on the outside looking in, watching rap become less about the art and more about the business. It's an interesting song and perspective, even more so when you factor in that he'd approached this topic over a decade ago on "Radio Song" from of his breakthrough 2011 project XXX.

There is an unequivocally raw, almost punk edge to SCARING THE HOES. It's a no-holds-barred affair that assaults your senses from the outset and doesn't let up until the second it ends. For 36 minutes, the listener is submerged in the LP's chaos, but when the album finishes and you come up for air, there's a feeling of obligation to go back and listen through again. It's a celebration of the singular stylings of these two hip-hop heretics, one that rejects any semblance of conformity, leaving it free to be exactly what they want it to be, whatever that is.

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