Tom Simmonds tells us about one of his favourite under-the-radar artists
JPEGMAFIA (real name Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks)
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
In a career of over a decade, he has has crooned over 80s pop samples, delivered lyrical indictments of gentrification and police brutality and even produced a haunting Johnny-Cash-Hurt level cover of the ever-annoying ‘Call Me Maybe‘. Once you’ve defeated every Soundcloud-rapper, bedroom pop darling and obscure internet genre, JPEGMAFIA is the boss you fight at the final level. Equipped with an arsenal of unconventional production and even less conventional lyricism, Hendricks is the embodiment of a truly experimental rapper.
JPEGMAFIA’s influences appear difficult to decipher. Though the persistent political tirades are present in nearly all his decade-spanning catalogue alongside his trademark industrial production, JPEGMAFIA’s music is a product of an affair between early-Ice Cube records and Yeezus-era Kanye West. Delving further into his discography, it is undeniable that Hendricks, in his 80’s sampling, autotuned ways, has also been influenced by early 2010’s vaporwave and cloud rap artists. These influences make Hendricks’ style uniquely syncretic and versatile, viable on standard trap instrumentals to noise rock.
Such a large and varied discography makes choosing a favourite no easy choice. But ‘Veteran’, Hendricks’ 2018 second full-length album, represents the end-product of a decade of experimentation. The nineteen track offering contains some of the rappers most conscious political tirades, with earth shattering production, trademark versatility and solid lyricism on tracks such as ‘Panic Emoji’, where Hendricks laces a stream-of-consciousness account of a panic attack over a glitched trap beat and ‘1488′, the musical equivalent of the Red Wedding, with white supremacists the casualties.
Stop what you’re doing and listen to this:
‘Black Ben Carson’, the title track from his 2016 debut album, shows JPEGmafia at his most raw and unapologetic.
With a face-melting beat that sounds like a firework display in a munitions factory, Hendricks delivers a savage political indictment by lyrically caricaturising the song’s subject. To me, this track is the essence of JPEGMAFIA – unrestrained and a product of the times we find ourselves in.