Good Noise: Beware ye that are fearful, JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s new album is ‘Scaring the Hoes’

A drawing of rappers JPEGMAFIA (a.k.a. Peggy) and Danny Brown from their new album “Scaring the Hoes.” Peggy stands in the foreground, wearing a headband and holding a gun. Danny Brown is behind him, laughing with his hands in his pockets. The two men are drawn in multiple bright colors, and there is the outline of a fire behind them.
(Ella Lehavi • The Student Life)

Sometimes I want an album to envelop me like a warm hug, but the more I listen to music, the more I find myself wishing I could fill a syringe with concentrated noise and inject it straight into my amygdala. “Scaring the Hoes” satisfies the latter urge and then some.

“First off, fuck Elon Musk / Eight dollars too much, that shit’s expensive.”

If the glitchy, pitched up P. Diddy sample grabbed my attention, then the opening bars (seen above) put it into a chokehold. The first 12-ish seconds of “Lean Beef Patty,” the first track on JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s new joint album, promises the exact kind of irreverent, ever-so-slightly abrasive joyride I’d hoped for from a collaboration like this. I’m happy to say that it delivers.

As two of the preeminent oddballs in the hip hop sphere, JPEGMAFIA –– the kids call him Peggy –– and Brown go together like peanut butter and jelly, that is, if peanut butter layed down twitchy, genre-bending, glitch-hop beats and jelly had a creaky voice like a cartoon gargoyle. 

“Scaring the Hoes” is short and consistent, but it fits a lot of diversity in its 14-song long track list. Peggy’s production pulls sounds from all over. Kellis’s “Milkshake” gets remixed into tongue-and-cheek oblivion on “Fentanyl Tester,” while a chorus of cheerful singing children from a 1980s Japanese meat packing commercial forms the lurching beat of “Garbage Pale Kids.”

From the epic orchestral arrangements on “Burfict!” to the soulful autotuned stylings of “Jack Harlow Combo Meal,” Peggy and Brown cover a lot of sonic ground, but it all feels held together by a unifying sense of unflinching, uncompromising confidence. 

The actual rapping delivers too. JPEGMAFIA’s flows are as pointed as his lyrics, while Brown cuts through the album’s dense, discordant instrumentals with his esoteric cadence and unmistakable nasal squawk. The rappers play off each other really well, flipping back and forth in a chaotic but calculated dance. If Peggy is the Dr. Jekyll, Brown is the Mr. Hyde, except in this case, both of them are a little out of their minds.

Peggy and Brown are clever wordsmiths, but they know not to take themselves too seriously. The pair weave bombastic rap personas with a healthy dose of self-awareness, delivering playful internet-age bars that would be exceedingly corny if they were delivered by someone lacking a fraction of the duo’s effortless charisma.

“Scaring the Hoes” touches on all kinds of topics, but, unlike the Cranberries, it doesn’t ever linger (I’m sorry). Peggy and Brown poke at corporate sellouts and Twitter discourse, toss insolent pot shots at politicians and name drop everyone from Danity Kane to the Iron Sheik. It’s a dense, hectic and unrelenting record, and it’s a whole lot of fun. 

Throughout the entirety of the album, there is one sentiment that sticks out strikingly amongst the helter-skelter: This pair has enough collective talent to make whatever kind of album they want to, and they really, really wanted to make this one.

This is articulated on the album’s title track. “Scaring the Hoes,” with its bawdy handclap rhythm and eerie, squealing saxophone, acknowledges that this isn’t the kind of song you can throw on at a party, at least, not without catching a few odd looks.

The “we’re not like other rappers” attitude is exhausting coming from most artists, but Peggy and Brown keep it self aware. There’s no defensiveness, no chip on their shoulder. These two aren’t concerned with who likes this record and who doesn’t because they already know it’s absolutely killer.

It’s a remarkably self-assured little record, and a well earned payoff for two careers that have always been a little off the beaten path. JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown have been doing things their way for years, and though it’s evident that they both have the talent required to make something with a bit more mass appeal, they’ve stuck to their guns and been greatly rewarded for it.

It’s mischievous, it’s maximalist and, at times, it’s a little incoherent. “Scaring the Hoes” is an album made for the people who made it, and anyone else’s enjoyment is purely collateral. It’s also absolutely fantastic.

Peggy and Brown’s uncompromised authenticity is admirable. It takes a lot of talent to make a meat packing commercial sound this good, but the results are well worth it.

For all the artists making the music you feel like you’re supposed to, try taking a page of this pair’s book. 

And, for the up-and-comers making weirdo shit that you aren’t sure anybody is going to like, I hope this album implores you: keep doing what you’re doing. 

Gerrit Punt PO 24 now feels inspired to make a rap album of his own. If you see him around, you should suggest a cool rap name. Then you should leave him alone. He’s a very busy man.

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