Over the past decade, eccentric rap has seen somewhat of a renaissance, with artists like Young Thug and Playboi Carti displaying a level of originality that has helped redefine what it means to be a rapper through speaking in “mumble voices” and mixing rap with other genres, such as punk on Playboi’s latest release. Enter Flatbush, NY native Barrington Hendricks, who has carved a name for himself as one of the rawest rappers in the industry under his strangely titled-moniker, JPEGMAFIA.
Mixing autotuned melodies with versatile raps ranging from happy to lonely, the artist has kept fans on their toes for the past six years. JPEGMAFIA has become one of the most unique musicians in recent memory due to his voice and minimal production.
Acting as the sequel to November 2020s single compilation “EP!”, JPEGMAFIA continues to shock audiences with substantial lyrics filled with witty references in between. But despite being the sequel to a compilation, this new project consists of mostly original songs, while displaying a darker tone than its predecessor, highlighting topics of Hendricks’s dedication to his career as well as subtle tales of lost love.
Where many rappers go for large-scale production or complicated raps that leave even the most dedicated Genius users scrambling to find meanings, JPEGMAFIA is laid back. He fuses easy-on-the-ear bars with minimal beats to give his sound a more stripped-down feel.
In just 18 minutes and seven songs, JPEGMAFIA shows no room for filler on the entirely self-produced EP. Opening with the previously released single “LAST DANCE!”Hendricks pulls no punches, confidently announcing his return in the first line: “Woah, on the rebound when I walk in I’m a reload, hittin’ big gas, I’m Rodman.” He compliments these lyrics with a dark trap beat that resemblesTravis Scott’s “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight”.
“INTRO!” the ironically titled second track effectively sets the tone for the project, as JPEG hopelessly states “it’s so sad to me, you’re such a negative, a negative refugee,” likely alluding to a failed relationship in his past.
On the EPs best track “FIX URSELF!”, JPEG confidently raps about his journey and being a lone wolf due to encounters with too many fake people, fans aside. Even with dark lyricism, he still finds a way to incorporate one of the funniest lines in recent memory, “I love my baby like Trump loves Putin, in the deepest way.”
The EP is backed by some of the best production of the year. The beats create a movie-esque feel, but still sounds different enough for each song to stand on its own. The minimalist production sounds very similar to Kanye West’s 2013 masterpiece “Yeezus.”
The New York rapper continues to push his creative limits and one-of-a-kind sound on “EP2!” With its poignant lyrics and innovative production, the project is another welcomed addition to JEPGMAFIA’s impressive catalogue.
Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Falter is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.