JPEGMAFIA - 'All My Heroes...' Album Review
I think JPEGMAFIA (Peggy) has implanted himself inside my brain. While I didn't love all of his last album Veteran, the tracks that stood out left an imprint on me that I can't put my finger on. Tracks like 'Thug Tears' and 'Baby I'm Bleeding' made me rethink what I enjoyed at the time and broke down hip-hop into it's bare essentials, a feeling that I haven't been able to shake off and has impacted how I listen to music now. The way he constructed songs on Veteran felt so undoubtedly organic, like a living, breathing record, something that reminded me of the greats of hip-hop like Madlib or J Dilla and like him or not, the bubble in which Peggy exists is fascinating. Coming back a year and half later, All My Heroes Are Cornballs preserves his title as hip-hop's single most interesting voice while venturing into avenues of pop and industrial rock to create a masterclass of an album that once again reaches into the uncanny valley of music and tickles a spot in my brain that no other artist does.
The first single and opening track to this album 'Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot' (Yes the titles are all this great trust me) is easily one of my favourite songs of the year and acts as a great in-point for anyone looking to get into JPEGMAFIA's work. Opening with some frankly horrible sounds of screaming and smashing glass, the track quickly introduces some warm and almost orchestral, organ-sounding synth notes that give the track this bi-polar and frantic energy right off the bat, a phrase that can be used to sum up the whole album to be honest. The beauty of this song's chords amongst the dissonant and ghostly samples, as well as Peggy's angsty delivery and violent bars, present what makes this album so impressive. For every hectic moment on All My Heroes Are Cornballs there's an equal calm as the album ends up feeling like walking through a lush forest as the sky collapses down, chicken little style.
There's a less pretentious way of saying that but it's difficult to pinpoint the feeling without a meaningless metaphor. The absolutely manic and oppressive instrumental, 'JPEGMAFIA STYLE BEAT', is then doused by the enchanting 'Grimy Waifu' which then goes into the creepy and dark opening of 'PTSD' before transitioning into this weird synth melody that sounds like a pitched up version of that video of that cat saying 'no' over and over. Basically this album is bonkers, which won't be surprising to returning Peggy veterans (pun very much intended there) but honestly feels so much more cohesive to me than his previous work. All My Heroes Are Cornballs doesn't need to be dissected note for note as it speaks for itself in terms of the uncanny beauty it creates but if necessary it can stand up to scrutiny once you start dissecting every clever bar and production gem this album has to offer.
In keeping with this discordant vibe, JPEGMAFIA dips his toes into some of the avenues hinted at on his last two projects with some heavy, industrial guitars like on the slapping outro of 'Konan Vs. Kel' or the shoegazey 'Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind' that sounds like it was lifted right off of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. While also trying his hand at some poppier tracks like the wonderful 'Free The Frail' that has Peggy sticking to a 'verse, chorus, verse' structure harder than he has before. While shoving his bare hands into the various musical pick n' mix containers, the one constant across them is Peggy's angsty and cocky bars that cover everything from Twitter trolls to the way the media treats rap celebrities to Brexit, going between his classic punchy rapping and melodic singing. It would be an insult to say that his vocals take a back seat to the production when really they are integrated together seamlessly, as his vocals are often robotically pitched to match the melodies of the track, something that works amazingly on the title track.
The word 'ethereal' used to be reserved for the Kate Bush's and Bjork's of the world but now there's a new kid on the block and wouldn't you know it's a 29 year old ex-military rapper from Baltimore. JPEGMAFIA represents something very special in music right now as he creates a sound that just isn't really like anybody else in his field and while I'm not sure if this album is pulled from the future or the past, I know it's exactly what we needed right now.
Listen to the album (and read all the great song titles) below: