JPEGMAFIA is one of those artists that I love from a distance, meaning that I have little to no experience listening to their music, but I appreciate their existence wholeheartedly. I love how fearless he is – or seems – in the way he presents himself and his ideas. He’s not afraid to say exactly how he feels and offer the version of himself that he wants, rather than focusing on what people may want from him. And he’s absolutely HILARIOUS. Two years ago, I tried listening to All My Heroes are Cornballs (2019) and only got through a few of the songs before turning it off. His name was circulating the internet as “someone to look out for” around that time, so I expected to fall in love immediately. However, I had difficulty placing him and knowing how to approach the project. And I got intimidated and turned it off after a few songs lol. I could feel myself wanting to like it, but something was preventing me from getting all the way there. But I continued to follow Peggy in hopes that one day I’d feel ready to try his music out again. Last October, I – in a fit of impulsive record buying (I have since calmed down lol) – bought a copy of the limited edition Black Ben Carson (2016) vinyl. So, while I wait for early March to come and my record to get here, I figured I should get myself more familiar with Peggy’s music, so I can finally fully stan him. Starting with EP! (2020) and EP2! (2021).
2020: EP! & 2021: EP2!
These two projects felt like the perfect way to introduce myself to Peggy’s music. Before listening, I didn’t know that these two projects were made up of loosies that Peggy released during different points over the past few years, but that sort of explains the disjointedness that these two EPs live in. While listening to AMHAC, my immediate thought was “this project sounds like I’m listening to the internet.” Not the band The Internet, but like someone attached a cord to me a la The Matrix and fed raw machine language into my brain – Because the Internet (2013)’s more aggressive and angsty big brother! And I feel the same way about EP! and EP2!. The projects’ glitchiness and Frankenstein-style audio sampling, as well as Peggy’s manipulation of his voice, made me feel like I was being bent and stretched through time. And I kinda liked that! That uneasiness felt a little more familiar when I went back to listen to a few of the songs, so I wasn’t struggling as much to process the music, and it gave the two projects an otherworldliness.
Since these two projects are comprised of loosies, there’s not necessarily a clear narrative, but there are some consistent themes across EP! and EP2!. The subject matter on these two projects ranges from love and relationships (e.g. “living single”) and current political and racial climate (e.g. “THE BENDS!”) to general braggadocio and industry complaints on a lot of the other tracks. It feels like Peggy does – on these two projects – what a lot of hip hop artists feel like they’re doing when they say their music is “edgy” or “alternative.” And he talks about that a bit on the two EPs; offering (at several points on these projects) that record labels and artists hoping to make something similar can only produce a faint imitation. Peggy’s music is formless and malleable, and that freedom (unconfined to the automation and expectation of pop music) allows him to turn it into whatever he wants. He spends the projects pinballing us from one extreme to the next – both lyrically and sonically – and even though it’s a little jarring at times, it works because it’s his sound. I don’t think he’d refer to his music as “edgy” or “alternative,” and I think that only works towards his advantage. The music just is.
Across the two EPs, I had a few favorites. I’d heard “BALD! Remix” with Denzel Curry (#denzelstanblog) a few months back, but I wasn’t a huge fan of it. This time, I’m liking the sound of it more, and Denzel and Peggy’s verses don’t seem so disconnected; I do think I like the original version better, though. “FIX URSELF!” from EP2! was also one of my favorites; I love the production on there – which Peggy did all of for both projects – and Peggy’s flow is basically perfect on this track as well. I would have loved for “INTRO!” on EP2! to have been the actual intro to the project and a little bit longer, and Peggy’s vocals at the beginning of “living single” on EP! were chef’s kiss. He wasn’t giving us pure, raw, immaculate vocals or anything, but something about him interpolating Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” did something remarkable to my overall sense of wellbeing.
EP! and EP2! were the perfect introduction to the unapologetic and slightly cluttered mindscape of JPEGMAFIA’s music. Both projects are extremely short (clocking in at about 43 minutes altogether), so listening to both is a quick and easy way to take in a lot about Peggy in a short amount of time. I think it may be time for me to go back and give All My Heroes are Cornballs another chance and listen through Black Ben Carson before my record gets here. Maybe I will become a JPEGMAFIA stan after all – can’t wait 🥺
Featured Image via District Magazine
(listen to EP! and EP2! on spotify by clicking the images below)
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