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JPEGMAFIA: Rap’s dark web troll

| Friday, September 20, 2019

Diane Park | The Observer

JPEGMAFIA wants you to be disappointed — or, at least, that’s what he’s been saying. 

Disappointment was the main message of the Maryland rapper’s promotion for his new album, “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” released last week. He dropped YouTube videos of his music friends expressing their dismay after preview listens to the project with titles like “JAMES BLAKE IS DISAPPOINTED” or “JEFF TWEEDY & HANNIBAL BURRESS ARE DISAPPOINTED,” and he included similar messages in all his social media captions. A strange promotional tactic to say the least, but for JPEGMAFIA — also referred to as Peggy — it seems right on brand. 

JPEGMAFIA is a troll, not in the “mythical cave dwelling being” sense, but by the internet’s definition of the word. A troll uses surprising, inflammatory or digressive messages on the internet to upset or bamboozle others. JPEGMAFIA’s calling his upcoming album a disappointment to fray expectations is trolling.

So JPEGMAFIA is a troll, an instigator, a villain, a satirist, etc. and “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” is his internet forum post. The song titles read like hodgepodge mash-ups of internet buzzwords. There’s the masculinity-crushing “Beta Male Strategies” or the nihilistic “Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind.” There’s the tribute to the perennial garden herb Sorrel, titled “Lifes Hard, Here’s A Song About Sorrel,” or the straight-up confusing “BUTTERMILK JESUS TYPE BEAT.” The production sounds like it came from the internet as well.

“It’s like if the dark web got ahold of your beat and spit it back out,” said producer Kenny Beats after listening to the intro track “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot.” That’s what most of the beats sound like. Peggy produces every track on the album, letting his glitchy, chaotic and dark-web sound seep into each. He blends genres at will, utilizing rap, R&B, electronic, grunge, indie rock and pop elements. Smooth melodies play over unidentifiable sounds. Most songs have at least one beat switch, and the end result is enthralling, captivating production throughout — especially rewarding with headphones.

When Peggy is rapping, his verses tread familiar ground — talking smack, beating his chest and name-dropping a random assortment of celebrities including Adam Sandler, David Bryne, Anne Hathaway and Ann Coulter. But on the album, it’s Peggy’s singing that really makes an impact. On “Kenan v. Kel,” “Rap Grow Old & Die” and “Thot Tactics,” Peggy slips into hushed, melodic singing, sometimes with auto tune and sometimes without. His voice is reminiscent of ’90s pop and R&B, and he goes so far as to interpolate TLC’s 1999 hit “No Scrubs” on “BasicB—TearGas,” not to mention his earlier freestyle/cover of The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”  

“Free The Frail” features Peggy’s best singing over a moody, ethereal beat. He lays down a rap verse, lightening the tone for the chorus: “If it’s good, then it’s good / Break it down, this s— is outta my hands, hey.” Helena Deland’s voice replaces the beat, filling every corner of the track with warmth and capping off a hazy song with a touch of clarity.

One thing is for certain: “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” is no disappointment. Viewed alongside JPEGMAFIA’s breakout album “Veteran,” the two projects are a fruitful collaboration between an internet troll and a master producer, creating music that echoes the crazy and chaotic internet culture of today.

Artist: JPEGMAFIA

Album: “All My Heroes Are Cornballs”

Label: EQT Recordings

Favorite Tracks: “Free The Frail,” “Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind,” “PRONE!”

If you like: Death Grips, Danny Brown, BROCKHAMPTON

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Scene Editor. He doesn't know how he got here or what he's doing — just like everyone else. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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