2016 brought hip-hop an experimental blessing in disguise. Danny Brown’s “Atrocity Exhibition” was a chaotic representation of a man attempting to break the antiquated chains of the genre. In 2018, a spiritual successor to this album emerged from rapper and producer Barrington Hendricks, whose stage name is JPEGMAFIA. By carefully taking a cookie-cutter approach of mixing cloud rap with mainstream trap, Hendricks morphs this trite concoction into an experimental grab bag containing work that could make Jackson Pollock wince.
Jpegmafia – “Veteran”
Year Released: 2018
Like: Danny Brown, clipping., Death Grips
Highlighted Songs: Baby I’m Bleeding, Macaulay Culkin
Songs such as “Baby I’m Bleeding” utilize an unorthodox production sound that bands like Death Grips have been employing, but don’t amplify the vocals to the point of dissonance. The production, while bizarre, compliments Barrington’s vocal style, mimicking his crisp and energetic yelps with the noisy, clattering percussion mixes.
Contrasting these songs are humble cuts like “Macaulay Culkin,” which sound like the somber selections from the Saturation tapes of his constituents “BROCKHAMPTON.” A reverbed, lightly-strummed guitar compliments the slow rap style, thrown out of Hendricks’ mouth like regurgitated molasses.
There’s a feeling throughout the course of “Veteran,” not of constant, audible mood, but of constant doubt (by the unsuspecting listener) that Jpeg will continue to slam home runs. The front half of the album shows production versatility, while the latter half allows the MC to grow into this versatility and hooks the listener into an eclectic magnetic field of adlibs and vicious hip-hop attributes.
Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago”
Year Released: 2007
Like: James Blake, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith
Highlighted Songs: The Wolves (Act I and II), Skinny Love
Is it artistic or insane to lock yourself away and create music? Ask John Lennon, Brian Wilson or any other musician who has found success through isolation. Allowing a creator’s mind to flourish within itself casts no boundaries, censors no ideas and inspires a determination for greatness or a self-expression that is incomparable.
On Bon Iver’s debut album, we see the sole member at the time, Justin Vernon, depicting his breakup through a routine folk style that not only provides a traditional acoustic experience that plays to the strengths of a wooden guitar and a male falsetto, but also incorporates a jab of uniqueness by Vernon’s want for experimentation.
Songs like “Skinny Love” have been present in college radio stations for almost a decade, for good reasons indeed. A catchy tune of heartbreak that is both relatable in lyrical form, but easily digestible through the ears. A softly strummed guitar, complimented by Justin’s diverse vocal range, proves to be a delectable combination (proven by being Iver’s most streamed song on Spotify).
But conventionality becomes harder to track down on this album when analyzing the deeper, less played cuts. The multi-part “The Wolves (Act I and II)” immediately comes to mind. The track begins as most Bon Iver songs do, with Justin’s voice being replicated like a beautiful spectrum through the speaker channels while an acoustic guitar is layered on top. Yet as the song progresses, percussion is liberally added into the mix, with more than one instrument (cymbals, tom-toms and bass drums) being modified by reversed edits.
Yet the chaos fades away like most of the album’s songs and Vernon’s lovely croons sing the track into an ending that both pleases and satisfies. The ending describes why this is one of Vernon’s landmark albums — Isolation turns into a fevering popularity.
Rem Jensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org