JPEGMAFIA experiments with rap on ‘Veteran’
Ryan Israel | Monday, February 12, 2018
“It’s weird, but it’s kinda cool,” are the six words I have used numerous times when trying to convince friends to listen JPEGMAFIA’s newest album “Veteran.” JPEGMAFIA, who often refers to himself as Peggy in his songs, creates a musical sound that is hard to pin down to any one genre, partly due to his uncommon background. His childhood in Brooklyn, his teenage years in rural Alabama and a stint overseas with the military that introduced him to new ideas and different artists are blended together in his style.
However, to best understand JPEGMAFIA’s musical formula, look no further than his name.
JPEG is a computer term used to refer to a method of compressing digital images. While Peggy’s music does not focus on digital photography, the four-letter acronym ties well with the young artist’s electronic and glitchy, self-produced beats. Like any producer in the modern era, the budding composer has access to millions of sounds at the click of a button. The album cover for “Veteran” pays tribute to this with a computer mouse cursor subtly appearing in the top right corner.
“Veteran” features an experimental and edgy production that can attract some and appall others. On “Dayum,” Peggy plays with strange sounds while his bars take a backseat. “Baby, I’m Bleeding” and “Rock N Roll Is Dead” feature minute-long intros made up of strange samples and trippy beats. The album’s best sample comes when JPEGMAFIA borrows from the legendary rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s song “Goin’ Down.” The young artist cuts and chops the song’s strange vocal and uses it as a backdrop, meanwhile displaying some of Peggy’s best rapping.
The second part of JPEGMAFIA’s striking moniker is “MAFIA,” a signal of the hard bars that he drops into his chaotic beats. To call Peggy solely a rapper would not do him justice. As previously mentioned, his creative production plays a large role in his sound. JPEGMAFIA is a talented lyricist, and his style is reminiscent of popular trap rappers. Peggy’s lyrics shy away from no subject, as he specifically calls out everyone from rappers and politicians to former child actors.
The several name-drops throughout “Veteran” are as unique as they are varied. On the standout track “Baby, I’m Bleeding,” JPEGMAFIA shouts, “Promise I will never go blonde like Kanye,” and on “1488,” he calls out artists Logic and Russ. Peggy gets into political statements when he drops the names of the always-polarizing figures Donald Trump and Tomi Lahren. Things get strange — one track is titled “Macaulay Culkin,” after the “Home Alone” star, and another song is dedicated to Morrissey, the lead singer of The Smiths.
At times, Peggy’s verses turn from energetic and aggressive to dark and nihilistic. Tracks like “Rainbow Six” and “My Thoughts on Neogaf Dying” present bleak and gloomy hooks and lyrics. “Panic Emoji” delivers details of struggling with panic attacks and depression. These daunting tracks give “Veteran” a variety of ebbs and flows, from upbeat bangers to slow sad songs.
The outstanding feature of JPEGMAFIA’s fourth studio album is its experimental nature. It is clear that Peggy was making music the way he wanted to, straying away from no strange sound or polarizing verse. This straightforwardness can overwhelm and turn away some listeners. The best example of this comes in “DD Form 214,” which sounds like a perfect rhythm and blues track until a strange sample at the end distracts from the feel. However, the experimentally shines at other points and makes “Veteran” a captivating album.
Label: Deathbomb Arc
Favorite Track: “Baby, I’m Bleeding,” “Williamsburg”
If You Like: Milo, Lou the Human, Flatbush Zombies