Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA or Peggy for short, is back with a new studio album that is despondent, self-aware, darkly humorous, all while showcasing the off the wall, glitchy and hard-hitting production fans adored on Peggy’s sophomore project ‘Veteran’.
Although ‘Veteran’ received widespread critical acclaim and boosted the MC from relatively unknown underground industrial hip-hop obscurity, he kept pressing that the new release would be a “disappointment”. This “disappointment” was emphasized with a series of videos on YouTube in which he would play a selection of songs off the album to guests including Flume, James Blake and Kenny Beats amongst others in his studio. The whole gag centred around short pieces to camera at the start of the videos where the guests would show their disgust at what they had just experienced. The highlight of these snippets arguably being that the music was “a shallow attempt to draw attention away from his hairline”. What can you say – it’s Peggy at his self-depreciating best.
Thankfully ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ is nothing near a disappointment, but rather a fresh and innovative evolution of a highly talented and unique artist. An album on which Peggy tones back ever so slightly on aggressive flows while incorporating autotune crooning which ranges from hilarious to deeply thought-provoking – all dependent on the context.
‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’, just like Peggy, doesn’t take itself too seriously with the MC referencing everything from meme culture and professional wrestling, to far more serious topics such as the rise of alt-right keyboard warriors and inequality within the music industry. It is a project deeply entrenched in modern internet culture and, as such, lends a lot from the way Peggy views the current online climate. Kenny Beats probably says it best, describing lead single, Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot‘s as something that sonically feels like a normal song that was uploaded to the dark web just to be spit out days later to create that signature JPEGMAFIA sound.
Speaking of that signature sound, don’t expect traditional song structures while going into this project. Beats, flows, motive all change on a whim and without warning such as on “Kenan Vs. Kel” with the second portion of the track far removed from the dreamy, hypnotical rhythm present at the start.
The central theme of the online environment is at the forefront of “Beta Male Strategies” with its looped instrumental reminding me of something you’d hear on an Art of Noise volume. The track also includes some interesting quotables such as “When I die, my tombstone’s Twitter”. While the second part of the track is Peggy calling out the alt-right trolls he often gets into online arguments with.
As much as the incredible production and standout songs such as “PTSD”, “Thot Tactics” and “DOTS FREESTYLE REMIX”, the latter, first heard on Kenny Beats’ YouTube series “The Cave”, should be commended; Peggy’s interludes are interesting. ‘Veteran’ set the interlude bar high with the likes of “My Thoughts On Neogaf Dying” and “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies” but somehow Peggy has outdone this on ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’.
Take, for example “JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT”: a dig at the trend producers often follow online to gain more listens, but also a chance for Peggy to produce a track seemingly from an outside perspective. Whether or not he intentionally made the song sonically similar to Death Grips is unclear but it would be a rather hilarious fuck you to everybody that compares him to the cult status industrial hip hop group.
Further down the tracklist we also find “BasicBitchTearGas” which is a cover of TLC superhit “No Scrubs” but done in a way only Peggy could do. Although the artist has channelled 90’s pop before touching on Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” on the “Millennium Freestyle” single, he released last year, a TLC cover was highly unexpected.
It’s no doubt Peggy is growing from strength to strength, in all honesty, the album may actually turn out to be a disappointment to those expecting a rehash of ultra-aggressive ‘Veteran’ but ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ is more than enough of an album to be able to stand on its own merit. It’s an album deeply rooted in the issues of today, issues we see online – an album for a digital and despondent world.