Embrace Political Madness with JPEGMAFIA and Freaky's Video "I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump"
JPEGMAFIA, the Baltimore rapper behind 'Black Ben Carson,' discusses the craft behind his provocative song titles.
Still via YouTube
If you heard the term “JPEGMAFIA,” I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it was a chiptune band or an art collective that puts Dick Butt memes where they shouldn’t be. I also wouldn’t blame you if you would have never thought it was an ex military rapper from Baltimore with a song called “I Smell Crack.”
Barrington Hendricks, also known as “Peggy,” has been watching his buzz—first cultivated on the projects Communist Slow Jams and Darkskin Manson—become an avalanche in recent months following the release of his album Black Ben Carson. On it, Peggy effortlessly switches between rapping and crooning over beats that sound like either scary Tekken stage music or dying in a cyborg hospital.
Today he takes on another Republican politician with the video, premiering below, for “I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump,” which features Peggy and trusted collaborator Freaky terrorizing a neighborhood by existing. I met up with JPEGMAFIA at the Bell, a studio/hang out spot/venue in Baltimore's Station North for the Llamadon affiliated congregate. When I arrived, JPEG was in the studio with intergalactic chanteuse Elon and the ever-working Nyoka Ny-D in a room that wouldn’t look out of place in an old Wu Tang video.
Noisey: How did you come up with the name JPEGMAFIA?
JPEGMAFIA: I lived in Japan for a little bit and we would just get nicknames off of internet shit. One nigga was PNG, one nigga was Dropbox, and I was just JPEG. My band out there was called “Ghost Pop,” and one day we were fucking around like “We the mafia now,” so one was PNGMAFIA, and I was JPEGMAFIA. I used to rap under the name Devon Hendrix, my middle name and last name, but when I wanted to change my name, I couldn’t think of shit except JPEGMAFIA.
What was your old shit like back when you first started?
When I first started rapping, I used to just jock Jay Z super hard. Back when I was like 14 and 15, it was, like, Jay Z, Ice Cube, and Lil Wayne. When I started coming into my own, I was super political, kind of like I am now. I strayed away from it, but then I came back into it as JPEG. The first thing I ever put on the internet was actually a beat tape, but the first thing I ever put on where I was rapping was called “Generation Y,” and it was hella political. I was dissing Sarah Palin, all that shit.
On Black Ben Carson, the song titles really caught my eye: There are songs like “Digital Blackface,” “Cuckold,” and my personal favorite “I Killed A Cop and Now I’m Horny.” Did you just think of the names when you made the beat, or did you name them after they were done?
Once I rapped it and listened to it, it would either be something I said or just a feeling. “I Killed a Cop and Now I’m Horny” is old. It’s the oldest song on the album. I released a project called Dark Skinned Manson, and it was a leftover from that. I was just like “You know what, this deserves to be heard.” I didn’t put it out at the time because I felt I was singing too much. I didn’t even do it to be funny or anything. Like, I looked at the tracklist before I put it out and was like “Oh, this retarded.”
Now you have “I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump” dropping with Freaky. How did the idea to do a Donald Trump song come about, and how did Freaky get involved?
Well, me and Freaky been knowing each other for a while, and he was always playing crazy music in his room, but he would never release it. He’s, like, the most underground rapper I know, and he’s crazy talented.
We started working an EP, and I had this beat (for Donald Trump) and played it for him. He was like “Yo, this Trump shit is crazy, we should try to get an endorsement from that nigga.” Like, the whole point of the song is like “We might just vote for Donald Trump because it shouldn’t be legal to vote for him in the first place.” For somebody like me that talks about politics all the time, it would be too easy to just say “fuck Donald Trump.” I have to make people be like “Why is he saying this and why are we letting them?” You know how rappers do, we just went in the corner and started writing.
In the video, y’all were riding around in the pristine, white neighborhood. Y’all niggas went out, to like, Columbia or Frederick, Maryland, and shit?
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s Bel Air, Maryland. There’s this dude named Jeff Rettberg that did the video. He worked on House of Cards, so that’s why the video looks so fucking good. He actually hit me up on Facebook like “Yo, I really like your music. If you want to talk sometime about making a video, I’d love to.” He sent me, like, a movie he did, and I was like “damn, this shit is hard.”
Yeah, I always watch rap videos and be like “Where do they find these cops and white people”? Do you just go on Twitter like “Hey, anybody wanna pretend to be afraid of black people for this music video”?
Jeff knew all the people like the little girl and her family, the dude with the gun. The dude with the gun is actually his dad.
So you and my dude Jacob Marley were touring the young Chitlin Circuit. What was the tour life like?
It was fucking great. It was a lot of shit that happened. We hit South Carolina and Virginia and shit. The shows are some of the best shows I’ve ever had. The second show we played (in South Carolina), everyone knew all the words.
So what the groupie mouf do?
(Laughs) I ain’t gonna say nothing about no groupies, but when I was in South Carolina this girl did definitely flash me to “Black Ben Carson” for no reason. The type of music I make, you would think it would just be a bunch of white dudes in a sausage fest, but it be some fine ass girls coming to my show. I have no idea why. Like, my music ain’t misogynist or nothing, but I wouldn’t expect that.
So what can we look forward to all Summer 16/Summer 17 from Peggy?
I’m releasing a whole EP with Freaky called The Second Amendment that’s like eight songs. After that, I might release another solo EP or some singles for the rest of the year. The main thing is the Second Amendment EP that’s dropping July 4. I want it to be like the soundtrack for the presidential election.
Action Bastard is a writer based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.