Belonged To Rap
By FILIP DROZDZ | October 19, 2019
Cover photo from EARTHGANG’s Mirrorland album cover
The month of September (and beginning of October) saw releases of many great albums, some of which are already being considered as ‘Album of the Year’ candidates. Therefore, I decided to review the three releases that I personally thought had the most significance and were the most interesting out of the bunch.
With all three albums being from the Hip-Hop genre, it only goes to show how much this music style has matured and developed over the years. Artists are – now more than ever – capable of fulfilling their desires of self-expression, especially when looking at how different these records are from each other.
JPEGMAFIA’s All My Heroes Are Cornballs
With his new album, Peggy (JPEGMAFIA’s nickname) descends deep into modern-day Internet culture. He fully embraces the communication affordances that it entails, although it may seem very disturbing and peculiar for some. In order to depict its nature, as well as his own ambivalent attitude towards it, he takes advantage of the Hip-Hop format to express his concerns. Topics that are brought up revolve around mental health, hate, unfair comparisons and not living up to expectations. All of this is crammed up within the context of the soulless and uncompassionate Web.
The project itself can be categorized as a ‘concept album.’ Transitions between most of the tracks are seamless – and some of the topics, flavors, and traits remain throughout. Peggy’s signature phrase “you think you know me” pops up many times for instance. With All My Heroes Are Cornballs, JPEGMAFIA confirms something to his listeners: there is still much that we don’t know about him, and it is therefore foolish of us to consider him as our hero. After all, every hero turns out to be a cornball in the end – and that’s the dominant theme of this record.
Danny Brown’s uknowhatimsayin¿
At the other end of the spectrum, uknowhatimsayin¿ is Danny Brown’s way of distancing himself from the conceptual style of album making – a stark contrast from his previous record Atrocity Exhibition. This time around he adopts a rather different approach: perceiving his new project as a homecoming of sorts. As Brown himself states: “I feel like it’s a whole new start again. I just feel like I came full circle. Going back to the beginning, going back to the basics. Dope beats, dope rhymes, not thinking too hard about nothing – just whatever’s dope is dope. It ain’t about no crazy concept.”
But despite him chanting “never look back, I would never change up,” it is apparent for those familiar with his previous records that he has undergone quite an artistic transformation. Some of his traits, of course, still shine through: the high-pitched voice, distinguished samples and chaotic flow, just to name a few. Brown’s lyrics have yet never been this well-crafted or accompanied by such versatile beats and refined production. This is indeed an artist who is difficult to pigeonhole, as he also was back in 2011 when he released his breakout album: XXX. There are now more different and gimmicky (yet captivating) reasons that make listening to what Brown has to say as worthwhile as ever.
Composed and executed by the Atlanta-based duo, Mirrorland is probably what I have listened to the most since its release. With every consecutive listen, something new was discovered about Mirrorland – I even started to identify with the city of Atlanta myself.
Atlanta has been establishing itself for a long time as a creative hub for seemingly non-affiliated music genres such as Hip-Hop and Neo soul. Although undoubtedly rooted in Hip-Hop, Mirrorland also incorporates many different sounds reminiscent of soul, jazz and Latin pop. With these melodic influences in mind, I propose that EARTHGANG aimed to capture the essence of their hometown in this project.
EARTHGANG probably found themselves in different states of mind during the creative process of this album, and that translated into an impressive collection of lyrically diverse tracks. This cohesive structure allows me to classify Mirrorland as a ‘concept album’ even though there is not much coherency in the topics brought up. They are not too revealing and they don’t need to be; Johnny Venus and Doctor Dot are still impeccable. Especially when considering their wicked flows and ability to make their debut LP distinguishable from the rest. This creativity (on top of many other factors) makes EARTHGANG stand out from many unoriginal, vain and boastful rappers present in the industry today.
It guess it goes without saying that there were a whole lot of other notable releases recently (e.g Sampa’s The Great’s The Return or Nick Cave’s Ghostseen). It truly took me much time and consideration before I decided on which three albums that were my personal favorites. The fact that all of the records mentioned here classify as Hip-Hop is a real testament to the genre’s growth. It also proves the point that I made in the article’s title: last month certainly belonged to rap.
Support The Amsterdammer
We believe in the right to inform the students, Dutch or international, about their surroundings and the university life. We give a voice to the voiceless and have already formed over 100 students since April 2018. However, we need your help to continue to investigate, inform and train the students.