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Shawnee Mission West's online student newspaper

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Shawnee Mission West's online student newspaper

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The Rise of Experimental Hip-Hop

The+Rise+of+Experimental+Hip-Hop

     Experimental hip-hop involves a few names you may be familiar with – Kanye West, MF DOOM, Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and more. The genre has already been popularized fast with listeners wanting something different than mainstream music, but new artists have been popping up out of the blue and putting music out there to new fans of the genre. Artists like JPEGMAFIA, Dean Blunt, Death Grips, and Armand Hammer are just a few of the more recent artists that people are liking more and more. I want to take a deep dive into some of those artists because they have heavily piqued my interest.

 

JPEGMAFIA

 

     Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, better known under his stage name JPEGMAFIA, is an American rapper, singer, and record producer raised out of Baltimore, Maryland. He has been making music since the age of 15 under the alias of Devon Hendryx and continued when he served in the Air Force at 18. He served a duty tour in Iraq and spent time in Kuwait, Germany, Japan, and North Africa before being honorably discharged. Most of his major influence came from his time in Japan, where he produced the instrumental album “Dreamcast Summer Songs”. This is also where he met fellow artist and collaborator Enso Sinatra and released the LISA mixtape in 2011.

     He went on to release Generation Y and Rockwood Escape Plan from 2009-2011. in 2013, he seemed to enter a depressive state, dropping The Ghost~Pop Tape which was full of atmospheric yet empty-feeling sounds and dark lyrics with sensitive topics. He subsequently released a statement saying that if the album didn’t blow up, he would kill himself. Luckily, the album gained more numbers than he expected, so he continued his music career by releasing music under the name JPEGMAFIA. “Darkskin Manson” was the first release under this alias right before “Communist Slow Jams”, neither of which were on streaming. A year after that, Black Ben Carson was released, which was his first release on streaming and highlighted the issue of racism that was and is still prevalent around the United States

     He then took a two-year break to work on his 2018 album Veteran, which was the first of two albums to break him through into discussions of the best producer. Songs like “Thug Tears”, which sampled the video game Counter-Strike Global Offense, and “Williamsburg” which sampled Travis Scott’s “Butterfly Effect”. The second album that eventually sent him into the mainstream was All My Heroes Are Cornballs, which included hits like “Free the Frail” and “Beta Male Strategies”. He then released a series of EPs and LPs appropriately named EP!, EP 2!, and LP!. His most recent album, a collaboration with Danny Brown, came after this series and contained samples from various obscure pieces of Japanese media and infamous moments from several corners of the internet. As of now, JPEGMAFIA is helping Kanye produce the Vultures trilogy, and the wait for JPEGMAFIA’s new album seems to be nearing an end according to a sequence of posts he made on the social media platform X.

 

Dean Blunt

 

     Hackney, London’s Roy Nwanuchi, popularly known as Dean Blunt, is a producer-songwriter ironically known for his obscurity. Not much is known about him except for his art, his music, and his relationships. He started his career as a bassist in the band Graffiti Island and one-half of the musical duo Hype Williams, which was named after the renowned music video director. The other half of that duo was Inga Copeland, or Lolina, with whom he was in a relationship at the time. The Hype Williams collective was supposedly founded in 2005 as a “relay” project passed between different artists every five years. Blunt and Copeland released 10 albums as a duo between 2007 and 2012, which included the 2009 mixtape Han Dynasty, their debut Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, and Start Gettin Reel in 2010, and their breakout album One Nation in 2011. The project was “handed off” to Slaughter and Silvermane in 2016, who have released 3 albums between 2016 and 2020.

     Blunt continued his musical career solo after his time in Hype Williams but still released some music with Copeland, including the Black is Beautiful mixtape and a few songs included in future albums, one of which was “The Narcissist” featured on the album of the same name. This album was released in 2012 and included multiple samples from the short film revolving around popular R&B singer Ashanti’s “Rain On Me”. This album was made to highlight abuse in relationships and the melancholy felt sometimes. After The Narcissist was released, it was alleged that Blunt and Copeland broke up. Blunt released The Redeemer a year after his solo debut album, and it pointed to all signs of a break-up album. It included samples from Pink Floyd, Notorious B.I.G, and more. It contained lyrics revolving around metaphors of break-ups and relationships.

     After The Redeemer, Blunt turned a new direction with his music with the LP Black Metal, which funnily enough didn’t include any traces of the genre it was named after. This album seemed to give him a lot more visibility in the industry since it included hits like “100”, “Lush”, and “50 Cent”. After this, he released 2 albums under the alias Babyfather which revolved around the issues of violence in London. He then released Soul On Fire in 2018, which began his frequent collaborations with rapper A$AP Rocky. His collaborations with him include “Purity”, also featuring Frank Ocean, “London Tonight Freestyle”, and “19” off Zushi, which was his next album that had multiple appearances from Panda Bear of Animal Collective and Joanne Robertson.

     In recent years, he’s made occasional appearances with Black Metal 2 and Give Me A Moment, his latest EP. He has won only one award before, which was the Phillip Hall Radar Award for Best New Act. I believe he deserves way more, but hopefully, he will eventually get his flowers.

 

Death Grips

 

     Death Grips is an electronic triad consisting of MC Ride on vocals, Zach Hill on drums, and Andy Morin on keyboard. One of those names might be familiar to some readers as Hill is the drummer for Team Sleep, a project that also includes Chino Moreno of Deftones. Their discography began in 2011 with the mixtape Exmilitary, which broke them out into the industry instantly with the classic “Guillotine”, which became a meme as well as one of their most popular songs to date.

     A year after Exmilitary was released, their debut album, The Money Store, was given to the public, which was a hit with underground fans including popular music reviewer Anthony Fantano. It is known as being one of his only tens. This same year, they leaked their album known for its infamous album cover, No Love Deep Web, due to multiple issues with their label, which got them released from Epic Records. 

     In 2013, they released Government Plates, an overlooked art piece that was more experimental than others. It had fewer vocals and more odd time signatures and instruments. 2 years after that, they released “The Powers That B” on two different sides, the first having a name I will not type, and the second being named Jenny Death. Each song in the first half had a sample from a Björk song, which stemmed from a close relationship between the two artists. The second half lets every listener look into the emotions of the band for once, with vulnerable tracks like “On GP” and “Centuries of Damn”.

     In 2016, they released Bottomless Pit, which experimented more with rock. You can hear heavy metal influences, especially in the title track and “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”, the intro. 2 years after that, they released Year Of The Snitch, an album filled to the brim with samples of their past music. This may have signified the end of an era since there have been no recent releases, and if it was, it was a perfect way to go out.

 

Brockhampton

 

     This isn’t a group that I mentioned in the first paragraph but one I wanted to mention while diving. The Brockhampton collective was made up of 10 members: Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, JOBA, Matt Champion, Bearface, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa, and Kiko Merley. It seemed like Brockhampton ruled the year of 2017, releasing the Saturation trilogy and three singles. Tragically, what seemed to be the group’s rapid come-up ended suddenly in 2018 with allegations of sexual misconduct against one of the group’s vocalists Ameer Vann. He was kicked from the group soon after and they scrapped the highly anticipated album Puppy

     In 2018, they signed to the label RCA and released Iridescence as the first album for the contract. A year later, they released Ginger, an album that had a lead single, “Sugar”, that landed them on the radiowaves of multiple countries. Nothing was released in 2020 besides the various demos of songs that were played on their Technical Difficulties radio. In 2021, though, they released Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, which revolved around JOBA’s grief about his father who had committed suicide that same year.

     In 2022, the group had seemingly turned against each other during the tour promoting their recent album. The tour was canceled besides two concerts, Coachella and the O2 in Brixton. They posted an announcement that made it official: the band broke up. The same year, they released two different albums. The first was called The Family, a solo album by Kevin Abstract that was released under Brockhampton’s name to help complete the contract and tie up loose ends with Abstract speaking about arguments, old friends, and especially Vann. There were multiple mentions of Vann in the album and how Abstract speaking to him basically ruined the relationship between people in the group. The second album was TM, a compilation of unplaced songs which completed the contract.

 

Misc.

 

     Experimental hip-hop has single-handedly inspired multiple artists including Kanye West, most of the Odd Future collective, and other artists that have been inspired by those artists, like Travis Scott and Kid Cudi. To summarize that, experimental hip-hop leads to mainstream hip-hop in one way or another. The genre finds itself in other genres pretty easily.

      The rollout of an album also matters. Kanye West’s Yeezus was teased by projecting the rapper’s face on various buildings with the background music being the lead single of the album. Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet was surrounded by multiple types of media, including a short film, a screenplay, interviews of him playing a different character, and more. Some have said they were immersed in the world of the album before it was even released.

 

Conclusion

 

     Experimental hip-hop is absolutely on the rise and becoming popularized rapidly. People searching for something new are discovering a genre full to the brim of unique production, vocals, and mixing. Even though it’s just now being discovered by several people, it’s been around for a very long time. DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… from 1996 is one of the earliest examples along with Madvillain, MF DOOM’s collaboration tape with Madlib and Deltron 3030’s self-titled LP. The genre is seemingly taking over parts of the world and inspiring more and more artists every day.

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  • D

    davidMay 9, 2024 at 12:38 pm

    Happy birthday maxxod carenford

    Reply
  • K

    Keira NeelyMay 9, 2024 at 11:47 am

    Amazing article my vro, keep Rocking the Skibidi! #Freaky

    Reply