JPEGMAFIA + Danny Brown : Scaring the Hoes

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JPEGMAFIA Danny Brown Scaring the Hoes review

Even before “Negro Spiritual,” the Thundercat-backed and Flying Lotus-produced highlight from 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿, it seemed inevitable that Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA‘s paths would cross. The two iconoclasts have a penchant for going hard, getting weird and reveling in the chaos, each rapper’s most thrilling songs wrapped in surrealistic production and occasional eruptions of noise, occasionally in the company of weirdos of all genres—HEALTH, Purity Ring, Thundercat again. The potential for the kind of chaos they could channel across the length of an entire album, even before they began teasing the actual release of Scaring the Hoes, seemed too promising not to be an idea worth pursuing.

In practice, the debut collaborative album between Peggy and Brown is as much fun as advertised, both emcees operating on overdrive with a surplus of agitated energy. Two of the preeminent shit-talkers and one-liner marksmen in hip-hop, they each take every opportunity to deliver a triple-exclamation-point quotable, with Peggy’s instantly legendary opening line, “First off, fuck Elon Musk/Eight dollars too much,” acting as the starter pistol’s fire. They play lyrical badminton throughout the album’s 36 minutes, lobbing hyperbolic-but-true boasts about their skills (“I don’t rap circles ’round n*ggas/I do figure eights/Rent free in n*ggas heads, I should do real estate“) and volleying sardonic meta-choruses about their aversion to commercial appeal (“We don’t wanna hear that weird shit no more/ What the fuck is that? Give me back my aux cord“).

With production handled by JPEGMAFIA himself, in spite of or perhaps because of his sugar-rush eclecticism, there’s a cohesion to the album that sometimes eludes records comprising beatmaker potpourri. For how often the duo deliver instant-replay highlights, the sensory-overload sounds that Peggy spins up are just as likely if not more so to draw the listener’s attention, be it through the Apple notification sound that interrupts the soulful “Orange Juice Jones,” the jungle breaks that loop throughout the muzak surrealism of “Jack Harlow Combo Meal,” the skronky sax and clapping in the title track or the clipping synthesizers in “Steppa Pig.” When every measure arrives with the subtlety of a folding chair to the spine, there’s no opportunity to let anything here fade into wallpaper.

There’s an undeniable looseness to Scaring the Hoes, but I hesitate to call it “natural” amid so much of JPEGMAFIA’s uncanny valley sonic production treatments. Still, he and Brown are as well-matched as two personalities in hip-hop can be, trading quips with the timing of a great comedy duo and the urgency of a cannonball. And yet, it still feels a little like they stopped short of making it as bonkers as it could have been—which is by no means a criticism. This is only their first album together, and the sheer, absurd fun of it is justification enough for them to keep on going.

Label: AWAL

Year: 2023

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