Review – JPEGMAFIA: Communist Slow Jams (2015)

Before I get into this album, I would have to offer you some guidelines. First, ignore the title. Whether or not JPEGMAFIA, otherwise known as Devon Hendryx, is a communist is irrelevant to the content. Secondly, try to hold all judgment, as this album is stacked to the gills with anger. Really, a better album would be Diary of a Seriously Pissed Off Black Male.

In one album, JPEGMAFIA managed to cover all of the bases for why black men are mostly this way, especially in 2015. First off, they have to face criticism from the government AND from those more light-skinned than he is (“#NewBlackPSA”), hipsters who jump into hip-hop music only to use it as a new identity, as opposed to taking it as something real (“Pimps”, “Once They Build a Starbucks, It’s Ova”), also facing plenty of criticism for such hip-hop from mostly indie rockers and metal heads (“Lemmy”). He represents not only the black man who actually believes in love (“Thot Jesus”), but he will tell a white woman straight up as to how much he really loves them (“Swirl”). Hint: he doesn’t. He’s not above dissing gentrification, as it may mean he’ll never have the funds to live where he lives now (“Starbucks”).

Oh, and he isn’t against gays. He just finds it a shame how men are getting emasculated just enough to start wearing dresses on TV (“Lee Daniels Freestyle”). One by one, Devon Hendryx knocks down the concerns of every modern black man.

The genius of JPEGMAFIA lies in the fact that he is willing to be relentless in his delivery. He may bill himself as shocking, but he is really only as shocking in his rhymes as Chuck D. In fact, the highest compliment that I paid the album was that it was a modern-day Fear of a Black Planet. When he rants about how white people are stealing their culture…think of it this way. When’s the last time you heard a black woman on a major label sing about love and heartbreak the way that Adele does? When’s the last time a rapper spoke about real stuff, rather than hop aboard a shallow genre full of illiterates? When was the last time a black woman or man not a complete savage on TV?

The other genius of this album is JPEGMAFIA’s embracing of the scary black man stereotype. While listening to this, I noticed that he has a problem with rapper Lupe Fiasco. I don’t know if the problem has to do with Lupe’s role in trying to seem tough or just the anger that comes with black people trying to make others feel comfortable around them and thus condemning the angry black person. I imagine that it’s the latter because JPEGMAFIA’s album DOES ask the question: what’s the point in making white people comfortable if they still fear you and your sons and daughters?
They say that a classic album has to be an album that talks about the time that it comes from. After multiple shootings of black people and the demonizing of black people in general, this was born of both a time and a place where a lot of stuff went down. Transplanting from New York and the south over to Baltimore, there a boy got shot, and all of Baltimore was looking to riot. What makes CSJ a classic album is that it doesn’t hold any relentless detail back about what it means to be an underprivileged yet intelligent black target in America.

Oh an black women, if you are concerned that he isn’t speaking for you, he does. Just listen to “Rape Culture”.

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