Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, AKA JPEGMAFIA, is the Baltimore experimental/noise rapper/producer who got quite a lot of attention last year with his 'Veteran' album; a record that saw Hendricks tackling just about everything from the alt-right to fallen icons, and even figures on the left too. Essentially, no one was safe from JPEGMAFIA as he frantically spat over production that could either be punishingly harsh or eerily tense. He's back already with his newest record 'All My Heroes Are Cornballs' and we doubt anyone could've seen this coming.
'Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot' opens things up with a familiar marriage of fluorescent glimmers, bursts of noise and JPEGMAFIA's (affectionately known as PEGGY) usual take-no-prisoners delivery, as he raps in a braggadocious way. However, something is different. Instead of the full-on attack that defined a lot of 'Veteran', this track breezes along at a funky, leisurely pace with PEGGY reaching a delicious high note in the chorus.
'Kenan Vs. Kel' features music box-like fluttering, whilst PEGGY puts himself in the same league as Kanye with the line '[People] waitin' on the Peg like I'm droppin' Yandhi.' Suddenly though, there is this left-hook of a beat-change defined by industrial sirens as PEGGY talks about picking his target and how prayers won't save them.
'Beta Male Strategies' utilises zen-like, harmonised vocal cut-ups whilst PEGGY sarcastically comments on keyboard warriors, commenting how there 'ain't no details, ain't no conversation' to haters on social media as well as how they're 'only brave with a board and a mouse.' The sarcastic 'sh*tpost' refrain does more by saying less, the way PEGGY brushes aside any of the people this song is aimed at.
'Grimy Waifu' on first glance seems like PEGGY embracing his inner weeb, the way he's lamenting his 'grimy waifu' amongst these Eastern feeling guitar notes and flute melodies. However, upon closer inspection, he's actually crooning about how much he likes his gun, the way he's packing it up and they're fighting together.
From even these initial tracks, it seems like JPEGMAFIA is going for a much more melodic, delightful approach this time around, as opposed to 'Veteran''s harsh aggression. However, Peggy's indulgent attitude, his cheek and humour, the zaniness and, of course, his lyrical and musical ability is all still present and at least equal to this record's predecessor.
'Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind' features a transcendent fuzz and more genuinely beautiful vocals. The song transitions into a kind of a lullaby approach; nimble keys and PEGGY's delivery nodding side-to-side whilst making fun references and weaving in his accomplishments, such as playing Coachella. He also uses the references to boost the way he sees himself and believes he should be seen by others, i.e. 'They want me Kevin James, b*tch, pay me like Kevin Hart.'
The title track delightfully brisks along with a glimmering, harp-like progression whilst Peggy further comments on the success he's had. He looks at the positives: 'I can't keep no job, I can't commit, I made rap my job, it's sacred'; and the negatives: 'incels getting close 'cause I crossed over.'
'Free The Frail' comments on the reception this album could receive. Amongst tuneful strumming and distortion you can click your fingers to, JPEGMAFIA once again details his story and progression and refrains 'if it's good, then it's good, break it down, this sh*t is out of my hands', as if to demonstrate his 'whatever happens, happens' mentality.
Scattered across the record, particularly in the second half, are various interlude tracks that serve as breathers between the fuller songs, but also add to the tapestry of JPEGMAFIA's mad scientist lab. In particular, 'Life's Hard, Here's A Song About Sorrel' is a glowing number with some of his most delicious singing yet.
On the flip-side, 'JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT' feels like a Death Grips parody with MC Ride-like animalistic yelling and dizzying speed. It wouldn't be the most unimaginable thing if this was intended as a satire of the lazy comparison between these two artists. Whatever the intention of tracks like this, these oddball experiments just add to the zany momentum of 'All My Heroes Are Cornballs'.
Peggy wraps things up with 'Papi I Missed U'; it doesn't exactly end things with a bang as much as the blissful ambience that's defined a lot of this record. However, lyrically JPEGMAFIA goes all-out in terms of making a defining statement of his artistic intent and confidence. Lines like 'Rich young swan, I'm a seer' (see what he did there?) and 'I don't spit raps, b*tch I spit rhetoric, and I be in your kid's mind getting leverage' imply that his takeover is only just beginning, and when you come to the end of 'All My Heroes Are Cornballs' it's easily to believe that this really could be the case.
Overall, 'All My Heroes Are Cornballs' is another winner from JPEGMAFIA. It's frankly jaw-dropping how he's managed to forge such excellence from another paradigm following from an album that just came out last year where he mastered the noise-hop realm. Some people might be disappointed that he's traded a lot of his angular noise for these more flourishing statements, and there is less of a social/political consciousness on this record which might be considered a loss to his more left-leaning fans. At the end of the day though, this is still very much JPEGMAFIA being the most unpredictable, difficult-to-pigeonhole wildcard in hip-hop right now and it'll leave you scrabbling to guess what he'll do next as much as it will leave you hungry for more.
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