JPEGMAFIA & DANNY BROWN – Scaring The Hoes: Review

Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA’s collaboration on their new album Scaring The Hoes is like witnessing the impact of two eclectic asteroids colliding, creating meteorites of songs that drip upon their audience with chaos. You’re getting a dish containing JPEGMAFIA’s more industrial and experimental style with Danny Brown as the subtle ingredient holding it together. Unfortunately, the album can sometimes feel less of a collaboration and more like a JPEGMAFIA album featuring Danny Brown; however, Brown delivers with enough character to find individualized placement without feeling like he gets relegated to the back. It’s a byproduct of Danny Brown sounding less assimilated to the avant-garde/experimentalism of JPEGMAFIA’s producing style – JPEGMAFIA seemingly fits, especially having an understanding of his craft, unlike Brown, whose music is more audible chaos, comparatively. It culminates into this uniquely great project that misses the mark due to the mixing of a few songs, where their vocals don’t get propelled forward, but the chaos is nigh at every turn, keeping the intrigue tapped for constant replays.

Beyond the distinctively oblique album and song titles, Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA’s prowess pushes them to the side as the music comes as expected – with consistency. It benefits the album as the surface layer writings can be detractors for some, especially when you want to talk about the greatness of a song titled “Steppa Pig” or “Jack Harlow Combo Meal,” but that’s their appeal, and it shouldn’t be so. However, the music and titles reflect the musical antithesis of the more popular-driven hip-hop. The music eclipses the norm and delivers an intricate array of production that’s the antithesis of prevalent hip-hop sounds today. Though the equilibrium of the two doesn’t get heard in the first song, “Lean Beef Patty,” so effervescently. It begins to take form with “Steppa Pig,” where we get this fantastic beat switch from streamlined hip-hop to more experimental, right in the second verse from JPEGMAFIA. From here, Danny Brown becomes that force who glides through most beats easily. It reinforces the notions that keep it focused on delivering quality music instead of keeping eyes on the surface layer weird.

After another beat-switching track, “Shut Yo Bitch Ass Up / Muddy Waters,” it starts hitting and missing often as the music begins to oversaturate the loudness with “Kingdom Heart Key” and “God Loves You” while minimizing impact with the shortened “Run The Jewels.” It isn’t as held together individually, despite flowing with the rest. It doesn’t allow Danny Brown or JPEGMAFIA to feel as immersed within the beat, instead getting shrouded over by them. The production’s rhythmic bombastic nature on “Kingdom Heart Key” and “God Loves You” is modestly compelling, but as the sounds get implemented, they begin to feel like a try-hard attempt to feel larger than life. That feeling seeps in slightly at the end of “Where Ya Get Yo Coke From?.” In turn, it makes one want to search the lyrics on Genius to get through these with an understanding beyond the production notes. Like with “Kingdom Heart Key,” where JPEGMAFIA overemphasizes the video game sounds at certain moments, taking away from the vocals.

It’s a slight detriment as sometimes you want to hear Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA’s verses like the smooth “Orange Juice Jones” or the kinetically frenetic “Fentanyl Tester” since they bring forth some deliciously fun bars and relativity. One moment, for example, comes from “Orange Juice Jones,” where Danny Brown raps: “Off that Casamigos, got her taco drippin’ on the floor/If them is your people, tell them chill before we up that pole/Off that Britney Spears, got me dancing like I lost control,” really letting out his inner self instead of flaunting odd excess and lifestyles. The lyricism stays consistent through most of the album, whether the two are flexing by their stylistic means or weaving thematic bars based on the song title, like on “Burfict!” named after former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Coming hard like a linebacker, the Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA bring a cadence with their flows as the horns from the NFL theme blare beautifully in the back. With “Orange Juice Jones,” you get that R&B smoothness influence being beautifully resonant throughout.

Through its up and downs, these tracks reinforce the meaning behind the album title, Scaring the Hoes – the antithesis to the current era of hip-hop, which makes more party-friendly, club bangers and sensual love tracks. These songs get more audio play instead of the alternative brilliance behind the respective artists. JPEGMAFIA isn’t a stranger to weaving an idealogy toward music where he speaks truth to himself instead of steering toward creating synthetic pop-raps, ala Drake. We’ve heard JPEGMAFIA satirize and build sensibilities through “Drake Era” off Veteran, but whatever nuance is left gets thrown out the window. Scaring the Hoes isn’t here to bring out those bumping “Too Sexy” from Certified Lover Boy, but rather the music heads who thrive off off-kilter production. It’s especially the case with its satirical sampling of pop songs, like “Milkshake” by Kelis, or the interpolations of others like “Get Em High” by Kanye West. 

Scaring the Hoes is one chaotic journey that accomplishes what it sets out to do, never truly limiting the artists, despite some technical issues. It all culminates into an engaging listen-through that isn’t so much transformative but instead greater during the moment. It leaves you feeling the vibes, allowing the intricate wordplay to lay unique metaphors to boast its thematic conjectures as it goes through the motions. Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA keep distinguishing themselves through the beats, even when certain moments aren’t audible, but it all comes around to a listen that will match expectations for many.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Musicians I’m Diggin’: HAAi

Though more relevant in the indie electronic music-sphere, HAAi has been delivering captivating performances (mixes) and beautifully conscious techno rhythms that shift the parameters of the dance floor vibe. Centered within techno, Haai brings this unique range of electronica and IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) sounds into the undercoating of hypnotic rhythms and enigmatic timbre tones of techno. The IDM is subtle; there’s the atmosphere that is ambient and intriguingly staticky; the low-tempo percussion, coming from varying drum notes influenced by the breakbeat aesthetic, just more tempered on the pace. But this is just me describing her debut album, Baby, We’re Ascending (2022). It doesn’t amount to varying styles she’s infused into her mixes, where she brought the heaters with her two Boiler Room sessions and fantastic, about 2-hour set for the Lot Radio (an independent radio station based out in Brooklyn, New York City).

HAAi has this antiquated energy with how she approaches the techno sound, seemingly incorporating the old with intriguing experimentations. It’s pertinent to her DJ and producer side, but equally, her choice of songs, whether smooth independent records, either original or remixed, adds a similar feeling when performing for a crowd. HAAi has given us a few performances through festivals, videos, and uploaded mixing sessions on streaming platforms. What makes these varying mixes unique is this constant desire to switch it up; tracks that carry over get placed in a different order to test the crowd’s vibes without sidestepping from the bombastic techno rhythms emboldening the ID tracks. It’s heard within her Boiler Room and MixMag sets; they aim to bring out the best of her style while leaving room for enough experimentation to keep those ears twitching with delight. Other mixes flesh out that unconscious danceability where you’re constantly hyped within the moment, taking in this beautiful mix of songs hidden behind the ID and grooving without realizing, taking your motions up a notch as the music gets injected into you.

HAAi may not be everyone’s cup of tea as she gets down to the nitty-gritty of the techno aesthetic, almost letting it explode from the fingers and mind and creating a boastful performance that never feels too long. Her hands seem to never pulsate toward implementing notions of pop, shooting for a vibe as opposed to melodic EDM-like vocals. She brings a finite start and end that keeps the tempo moving with consistency – at times, HAAi takes the rhythms to another level, elevating the timbre to work with the nuances from the drum machines. It’s even more captivating when you hear her set at the Movement Electronic Festival in Detroit. These audio versions of the sets aren’t as immersive as being there or seeing the scope on video, where the crowd’s energy brings you goosebumps as you might yearn to be there. However, as you listen to it, you get a better glimpse of someone who can select and excel without incorporating their own work into the fray.

It’s interesting how different it is. When I spoke about Nia Archives last week, I explored the intricacies of the genre, as it differs from the more recognized (comparatively) EDM and techno. For HAAi, she’s taking it to a different level, which may not seem as much at first, but you end up seeing the nuances of her craft. That’s how I latched on so swiftly to the music. You have this remarkable balance between the performance and studio, yet, there is so much more. I wasn’t as hyperactive with Electronic releases last year, but when I say HAAi’s debut is stellar, I’m not capping. But as I keep delving more into this world – beyond hitting play on a random mix – write-ups will continue.

Flume – Palaces: Review

Flume’s production styles fluctuate and replicate a sense of competency, sometimes extending beyond and giving us a wider world of great electronic music. It is evident with past releases, Skins and Hi This Is Flume, and is similarly the case on his new album, Palaces. Unfortunately, it’s poorly conceived, confining itself in experimental lanes of industrial and pop complexions. Flume doesn’t extend beyond his reach. It leaves you feeling empty due to Palaces keening in too much on developing atmosphere and less on constructing something more elevated and vibrant. Getting lost in its sound, it stumbles over poorly constructed tracks with some featured artists and poor cohesion, but a few stood out amongst the 13-tracklist.

Flume is known for creative shifts in production, sometimes creating these dynamic sounds that elevate the plateau his music gets placed. We hear these shifting styles fluctuating core elements of pop and experimental/IDM (intelligent dance music) electronica without great contrasts and instead becomes jarring and off-putting. It’s more so within individual tracks, which it tries to create these unique hybrids without much of a payoff. Occasionally working with certain features, it’s heightened, working more fluidly when Flume comes at these tracks working solo. He offers a sense of nuance to the styles getting incorporated, specifically with how it’s deconstructed to give you a natural feel of the instruments. We hear this beautiful crescendo through tracks like “Jaspers Song” and “Go” while maintaining a grounded sense of musicality. 

But there is nuance to these solo tracks as Flume feels right in his element. He leaves you with this unique pacing that allows you to break apart the layers and straddle onto them as the music whisks you away. The ethereal weight of the sounds is keen on Flume’s strengths instead of creating an overbearing presence with flummoxing styles. Instead of wrought techniques like on “Only Fans,” we are given elegant cadence in the sequencing of tracks like “DHLC.” It isn’t unlike some with features that lose sight of the bigger picture, specifically as Flume tries to emulate without effect.

From the beginning, Palaces doesn’t offer much with the featured artists. There are moments of grandeur where it doesn’t stifle smooth transitions, but it predominantly left me waning on a vibe with distorted IDM that doesn’t fit the tonal direction. It separates the greatness of “Hollow” from the poorly constructed “Highest Building.” “Hollow” has smooth transitions between drops, while “Highest Building” shifts between these starry pop vocals and a slightly off production. Adjacently, there are tracks where its production feels to be mirroring styles from other artists without coming across as natural. “Only Fans,” in particular, tries to bring that energy and virtuoso of an Arca record, failing to do so on various ends, especially with its weak concept. And “Say Nothing” feels like a typical Tiësto track without a captivating progression of sounds. There are mediocre moments that never stood out, becoming just distant memories.

Some of the features on Palaces come and go, like its lackluster production. They don’t come with oomph despite meshing beautifully with the sounds. As they align with the style, the artist becomes complacent since they don’t make but break the track as it turns it into an empty, substanceless plate. Though four of the eight features come and boast the production, creating great tracks that beautifully encapsulate the vibe Flume is spearheading. Including “Hollow,” there is “I Can’t Tell,” “Escape,” and “Sirens” are others that try to break the mold and create these larger than sounds, albeit not being that special. “I Can’t Tell” and “Sirens” bring an overwhelming sense of creativity as Flume tries to stray far from the norm. “Sirens” does something spectacular with the IDM qualities that it transfixes you in a world of wonders. Similarly, “I Can’t Tell” properly blends EDM and IDM qualities as they transition between each other. It adds depth to LARUEL’s elegant melodies.

There isn’t much to Palaces to recommend, albeit the few tracks highlighted. The highs are exponentially high, but the lows feel like being stuck in a broken half-empty pool. It’s astronomically low. It isn’t as concise or constructively intuitive. It’s just there, something you can push off to the side while checking out other electronic artists like Dezza.

Rating: 5 out of 10.