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JPEGMAFIA's New Album 'Black Ben Carson' Is Going to Heal, Inspire, and Revive America

Stream the Baltimore artist's boundary-pushing new album, premiering on Noisey.


JPEGMAFIA / Photo by @eyeofmyra, courtesy of JPEGMafia

The world's full of fucked up shit. And music, which is supposed to be a form of protest, isn't much help at all: You've got your Drake songs, which lull you into spending your time complaining about text message threads, and you've got your Death Grips, which is just busy getting Reddit threads up in a tizzy. That's where JPEGMAFIA comes in.

A recent transplant to Baltimore, JPEGMAFIA makes music that's explosive and boundary-pushing. His production is full of distorted sounds that rattle and decay, pushing at the boundaries of what's comfortable to listen to, and he raps in modes that shift from sing-song, heavily processed sonic experiments to pure shouting, his lyrics landing like Molotov cocktails. His voice stretches out in sensual croaks and angry barks, seemingly all recorded inside a boiler room. Song titles like "I Just Killed A Cop Now I'm Horny" give an idea of where he's going with it all.

On his new project Black Ben Carson, named for the Republican presidential candidate who promises to Heal, Inspire, and Revive America (who, in case you missed the joke, is the only major black candidate in the race), JPEGMAFIA pushes to extremes and steps back for moments of personal reflection. JPEGMAFIA, whose real name is Barrington Devaughn Hendricks, grew up in New York before moving to Alabama as a teenager, where he started making music with a rudimentary setup in Audacity. "Most of my experience with racism comes from living in the South," he explained over email. He enlisted in the military and spent four years deployed in Kuwait, Iraq, Germany, and Japan, moving to Japan afterwards and continuing to work on music. He recently returned to the US and ended up in Baltimore, shortly before the Freddie Gray protests last year. He's since become a fixture on the local scene, and local collaborators like Butch Dawson make appearances on Black Ben Carson.


Black Ben Carson Side A cover by Sanjeev

Unsurprisingly, JPEGMAFIA's music reflects a broad range of influences and perspectives—Black Ben Carson is one of the most jarring things you'll hear all year. But it also fits in neatly with the frenetic experimentalism coming out of Baltimore as a whole. He offered a statement about the album over email. Read it and check out the full album, premiering on Noisey, below. You can also pre-order it on cassette here. Happy President's Day LOL.

Black Ben Carson is a an amalgam of all the albums I’ve made so far. Communist Slow Jams was me confronting liberal racism, white supremacy, and new black Raven Symone, Pharell-esque bullshit head on and with no apologies. Darkskin Manson was me addressing those problems again but now speaking from the mindset of a Baltimore resident during the uprising. Black Ben Carson is me squaring up to the established hierarchies, systems, and values with one hand on my nine and the other on my crotch. This is my Death Certificate. And just like Ice Cube’s masterpiece the album is split is split into two sides

Side A is called “NIGGER”: It's hip hop in its rawest form—loud, angry, political, and self-aware. It’s me looking out into the world and seeing all the problems I face as a black man. But instead of getting depressed about the situation, I embrace it. I embrace the fact that every race on the planet looks down on my black ass. And I wear like a badge of honor. It makes horny. It’s me getting shot by the police in the street but instead of signing songs and holding hands. I shoot back.


Black Ben Carson Side B cover by Sanjeev

Side B is called “PEGGY”: It's basically me thinking out loud. Getting more introspective about my living situation. I’m an artist but I’m also a real person. I have bills like everyone else. I go the same McDonalds that every one else does, and we all pay BGE. So I get in my own head about things sometimes and they come out musically. This is where I separate myself from any other “musician” screaming out vague bullshit and calling it art. On this side I’m speaking about people, places, things that have affected me in the past year that I’ve moved to Baltimore and invite a lot of those people on the record to share their thoughts with me. Musically it's more mellow and calm than the “NIGGER” side, but the same passion is retained

This album is for my niggas, Not the globally privileged. Because the privileged need their feathers ruffled, and my ability to ruffle feathers is second to none.

Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.