Arts and Entertainment

Breaking Form: Selection of Album Appraisals

Reviews of two of last month’s most groundbreaking, genre-defying albums, created by the figureheads of “experimental hip-hop” and “Glitch pop,” respectively.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Ori Mermelstein


For many hardcore hip-hop fans, hearing the announcement that JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown were collaborating on an album was mouth-watering—a promise of a nuclear collision between two of the most eccentric names in the genre. JPEGMAFIA (a.k.a. Peggy) and Brown unashamedly represent the off-kilter nature of the overused and vague—but ultimately fitting—term “experimental hip-hop.” They are undoubtedly experimental in their intonation, tone, production, and subject matter; sure, they rap about clothes, money, and women like many other rappers, but they do so through a different lens—Brown is childlike, maniacal, perverted even, while Peggy imbues his lyrics with radical anti-establishment political undertones. The most prevalent characteristic uniting Peggy and Brown, however, is their reputations: Brown, with his high-pitched, nasally voice and delirious rapping style, often described as annoying or ear-splitting; Peggy, with his groundbreaking production, filled with clashing samples, abrasive instrumentation, and adorned with random sounds (ie. the clicking of a pen, keyboard taps, a phone chime). This does not necessarily make their collaboration obvious, but it does make it exciting—combining the wackiness of Brown and the inventiveness of Peggy to heighten their frenzied energies? Whew!

SCARING THE [EXPLETIVES] embodies Peggy’s and Brown’s utter disregard for mainstream easy-listening. If anything, Brown and Peggy actually turn their freak up a notch—Brown’s raps are more unhinged, Peggy’s production is more exploratory in its use of time signatures, beat switches, and samples. Take the title track, for instance, which layers an echoing clapping noise, a squealing saxophone, and a ferocious live-drum kit, over which Peggy and Brown spit outrageously obnoxious verses. This same evocative production is all over the album: “Jack Harlow Combo Meal” is strangely beautiful, layering chaotic drums over a solemn, simple piano-bass jazz sample; “Kingdom Hearts Key” has a similar effect with its transcendent soul sample that slowly fluctuates in speed; “Heaven on Earth” is nauseating with its stop-and-go sample loops. This production is effective, predictable only in its unpredictability, and draws the listener into the crazed, intoxicated world of Peggy and Brown.

This inebriating soundscape is perfectly complemented by the beautiful marriage of Brown’s and Peggy’s distinct styles. Brown raps with an unhinged intensity, swerving in and out of the psychotic with his hysteric, high-pitched laugh and sporadically-scattered ad-libs. Peggy, on the other hand, offers a less polarizing presence—aggressive, yet restrained, emotive in his heavy use of auto-tune and vocal effects. They share a twisted sense of humor: Peggy makes some wild claims, calling himself both the “black AOC” (absurd) and the “black Marjorie Taylor Greene,” (even more absurd, comedic in its utter falsehood); Brown makes abrupt, witty quips, with bars such as “Like Terms and Services, they all in agreement.”

SCARING THE [EXPLETIVES] is a massive middle finger to passive, easily-offended audiences. Peggy and Brown have undoubtedly pushed hip-hop’s boundaries, whole-heartedly embracing their main criticism of being “difficult to listen to”—a characteristic they acknowledge with the title of their album. Is SCARING THE [EXPLETIVES] difficult to listen to? For many, it is—radical in its chaos, aesthetic, and intent. But it is also inventive, fun, and mind-blowing: a full realization of the promise Peggy made seven years ago on his 2016 debut album to “take hip-hop out the Drake era.”

100 Gecs—10,000 Gecs

If one had to take the chaotic nature of our fast-paced, ever-evolving experience with perpetual-onlineness and turn it into music, it would sound something like 100 Gecs. Composed of producers/vocalists Laura Les and Dylan Brady, 100 Gecs makes music rooted in internet obsession, reflecting its scattered, disorganized nature with an amalgamation of sounds and influences. Their latest album, 10,000 Gecs, is similar to their explosive 2019 debut, 1,000 Gecs, reveling in creative spontaneity and sonic scatter. The duo’s music is often labeled as “Glitch pop,” but that term does not adequately encapsulate their music—no term can, in fact. 100 Gecs seems intent on ignoring the confines of any label, fusing different genres and sounds into a unique, frenzied  aesthetic. They thrive in this glitchy unpredictability: tracks combine ska beats and punk vocals, utilize poppy chord progressions flavored with jazzy complexity, begin as abrasive, hard-hitting youth anthems, and quickly morph into gentle ballads. There are no rules. No sound is outside their sonic palette; nothing is out of reach.

Every song on 10,000 Gecs exemplifies this ambitious sentiment. “I Got My Tooth Removed,” for example, starts as a slow, emotional love song before quickly breaking out into an upbeat track punctuated by flaring mariachi horns. The album’s opening track, “The Dumbest Girl Alive,” incorporates a trap-like percussion section, complete with punchy bass hits and gunshot snares, into poppy electric guitar riffs and glitchy synths. “Billy Knows Jamie” features punky, dark lyrics howled in a manner reminiscent of progressive metal bands like System of a Down before exploding into full-on thrash metal. Most songs on the tracklist have a maximalist, deliberate sound—nonlinear, but never meandering. This is not true for every song on the album, though; there are also simple, cutesy tracks like “Frog On The Floor,” which feels ironic in its lyrical obscurity—“I heard he was telling croaks at the party,” Les sings of the aforementioned frog—but remains strangely catchy, endearing in its unexpected simplicity.

10,000 Gecs is startling in its weird cohesion; listening feels like toggling between different radio stations. Yet it remains consistent in its strangeness, ingenious, and ambition. 10,000 Gecs reflects the crossroads of the younger generation and the multi-faceted, chaotic nature of the internet—yes, there is the occasional darkness and rebellious sentiment, but above all, the album maintains a strange innocence in its experimentation and youthful amusement. The best part of the album is the sense that 100 Gecs is just having fun; listening offers a window into this eccentric and unbound joy.