Newcomer JPEGMAFIA champions noise rap

Photo courtesy of Deathbomb Arc

It has become conventional wisdom that the rock star mentality has infiltrated hip hop. The two genres have always had similarities in their philosophies but almost never had a big sharing of fan bases. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, there were many attempts at merging the two in the form of the mostly horrible rap-rock genre.

But 15 odd years later, rappers have learned how to sing about being rock stars without being cringe-worthy. While Post Malone has become this generation’s Keith Richards, where is Sid Vicious? Where are the punks?

Sure, moshing at a rap show is commonplace now, and Lil Uzi Vert screaming about the deaths of his friends became the biggest hook of the summer in 2017, but the fact is, the mainstream remains refined as ever. Though a far smaller niche, the punk ethos lives on in the new rap underground, where rawness and anarchism are virtues and industrial production thrives.

In this space, JPEGMAFIA has recently come into his own. With his most recent project “Veteran,” the rapper has set a high standard for the rest of 2018.

The album is consistent with many of the qualities common in similar “noise rap” projects from the metallic production throughout to the yelled verses. Fantastic idiosyncrasies prove to be the main component in making this as good a project as it is.

Perhaps the most sonically noticeable of these elements is the glitchiness of the album, staying true to the “jpeg” part of JPEGMAFIA’s name. Much of the noise in the album consists of tightly looped samples, reminiscent of a YouTube video that has gotten stuck playing a tiny snippet on repeat.

At other points, bit-crushed percussions are heard in the background, sounding like an explosion sound effect coming out of a Game Boy.

Another undeniable aspect of the album is the humor of it all. Peggy’s harsh sound belies how trivial he makes everything seem. A repeated vocal spoken by an unknown woman plays in almost every song saying “You think you know me,” as if to remind Peggy’s listeners to not extrapolate on
his words.

He bashes misogyny and critiques feminism, antagonizes the alt-right and then makes fun of liberals in “Libtard Anthem,” a song that features the comedic gem “Word on the street, you’re Bill Maher. Word on the street, you f***** Tomi Lahren.”

Although highly experimental and often containing beats that are nearly impossible to bob one’s head to, there are some cuts that have more mainstream appeal. The best example is the single “Baby I’m Bleeding,” a mosh anthem that features Peggy’s hardest hitting verse. The single is also one of the only times that it is discernible whether a drum is a kick, a hat, or a snare.

Another track, “Williamsburg,” sounds like he took pieces from a Yeezus sound pack and made it sound even colder while also sampling the massively popular “Butterfly Effect” by Travis Scott. The track builds up to what sounds like standing outside a warehouse rave.

However, Peggy does not hit every mark with absolute perfection. While most of the songs are quite short — five tracks on the project are less than two minutes long — and leave listeners wanting more, the longer tracks on the album feel boring in comparison.

“Rainbow Six,” the longest track on the album, seems as though it drones on for just about forever. These tracks do indeed cast some doubt on JPEGMAFIA’s ability to hold the audience’s attention. But as an artist who is in rapid development, he may have already fixed this concerning flaw by the next time he releases music.

Peggy will undoubtedly draw comparisons from some to Death Grips, the noise rap darling group that rose to popularity early this decade. But another more apt contemporary may be Danny Brown. Beyond the fact that both rappers are abrasive and love the idea of making nervous socialites clutch their pearls, their influences and lineages point in similar

Danny Brown has mentioned how he could never reach Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s level because he could never sing like him. Peggy’s workaround was to sample the deceased rapper’s wild singing and channel his energy.

JPEGMAIFA’s approach is uniquely fresh. The space he inhabits in the music world is filled with some of the most creative and lyrical MCs of this decade. And yet, he himself has managed to bring something completely unexpected to the table. Peggy’s surefire climbing in popularity is certainly something to keep eyes on over the course of the rest of this year.