Following the release of his widely praised All My Heroes Are Cornballs in 2019, Barrington Hendricks, better known as JPEGMAFIA, delved even deeper into his rap niche. In the next two years, Hendricks dropped two extended plays (EPs), appropriately titled EP! and EP2!, that experimented further with the already inventive genre. His fourth album LP!, combines the melodic nature of his more recent output with his signature avant—garde production to create one of his most expressive and unique works yet.
Even though Hendricks opted for ambience on EP2!, “TRUST!” immediately indicates a return to old form. While he begins the track through soft, raspy whispers, the driving beats in the background bring out the energy that was previously absent. Although EP2!’s subdued liveliness was suitable for its release during the pandemic, the bright xylophones that appear on “TRUST!” signify a turn to a more optimistic future. Accordingly, Hendricks talks about self—appreciation. He mentions how he just “speaks facts” while others are just “bluffin’,” and this doesn’t stop him from “still feeling nice” even if he’s “been fucked over” by others. He labels those around him as “conniving” because he “can’t believe them,” but as long as he’s “feeling nice,” he thinks “everything’s great.”
Hendricks’ introspective analysis continues on “END CREDITS!” where he talks about the emotional aftermath of loss. His belting vocals are backed by a distinctly rocklike production, and the never—ending strums of an overwhelming electric guitar also highlight Hendricks’ profound realizations. In the chorus, he recognizes that behind the “steam and the hype” of his life, it’s the “loss” that truly affects him the most. To prevent the negativity from seeping into his everyday thoughts, Hendricks searches for solutions. When it comes to losses related to his career, he professes that it’s “not a dice.” He wants to take back full control from the mysterious hands of fate. “END CREDITS!” is only two minutes long, similar to others on LP!, but those precious seconds are spent putting himself on a path towards steadfast determination and not towards an end credits scene without substance
Depending on how the listener consumes LP!, the track following “END CREDITS!” differs. Hendricks originally planned to release LP! like any other album, but after label politics and sample clearances interfered with his plans, he decided to create an online and offline version. In a tweet directed at his label, Hendricks expressed his frustrations with the sampling process and how labels were asking him to “prove .. this isn’t a sample,” leading to the delay of LP!
Cutting corners can be costly for everyone involved, legally and artistically. Eventually, this led to a rift between Hendricks and his label. The online version is the official one endorsed for streaming services, but the offline version is Hendricks’ true vision of the album. It has more tracks, different title names, and changes in song composition. The offline version was still put on less restrictive digital platforms such as YouTube and Bandcamp, but Hendricks had to do so independently without the backing of his label. In the end, the LP! found on Spotify or Apple Music is an artistically inaccurate representation of Hendricks’ true interpretation of his music.
The single “HAZARD DUTY PAY!” is one of those tracks that appears only on the offline version. In the description of the music video, Hendricks references the sample dispute with a short “couldn’t clear it. :(“ This sentiment is shared by many other smaller artists such as Shygirl, whose track “BB” had to be replaced due to sample copyright issues. The sample that Hendricks uses on “HAZARD DUTY PAY!” is what makes it stand out. After a jazzy R&B introduction, the track transitions into Hendricks’ percussive and frantically energetic beats. By now, the listener is accustomed to Hendricks’ distinct production techniques, which he calls “DNA all in y’all beats.” To further support the acknowledgment of his impact in hip—hop, Hendricks criticizes the “fake [rappers]” who replace impactful ones after they die. His confident delivery of the lyrics backs up his assertive self—praise, ranging from “Peggy keep scoring” to “Peggy the GOAT.” Ironically, one of Hendricks’ most assured songs is kept back by his label, who he also calls out in the track as part of a family of “burners.”
For an artist signed to a big label like Republic Records which is home to Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, Hendricks is more likely to have his samples approved. They play an integral role in his eccentric take on more conventional production, not just on LP! but also on his previous work. His sample portfolio includes Swift’s “Delicate” in the outro of “Post Verified Lifestyle” from All My Heroes Are Cornballs and part of a Trump speech on “The BENDS!” from EP!. Relegating uncleared songs to unofficial platforms ignores Hendricks’ intended takeaways behind LP! and instead favors the executives of Republic Records. Artistic integrity and proper credit are important, but so are the wishes of innovative artists like Hendricks and Shygirl.
On almost every track of LP!, Hendricks whispers one of his trademark phrases: “You think you know me.” Through tracks like “TRUST!” and “END CREDITS!,” we do get a closer glimpse of Hendricks’ personality and beliefs. But our relationship with the rapper is limited without also considering his bold claims on “HAZARD DUTY PAY!.” Some of the tracks on the online version give us a more detailed view of the rapper, but the true Hendricks is still masked behind the overarching power of Republic Records. Now that Hendricks is set to leave his label and return to his independent roots, we can finally get to know him as he intended.