JPEGMAFIA: A Conversation with the Buzzing Rapper

Photo courtesy of Deathbomb Arc

“I’m that internet n**** yo.” JPEGMAFIA sits on his hotel bed in the early afternoon. The night before, he spent 40 minutes pushing the limits of his vocal chords, screaming every word to every song, while refusing to use a vocal backing track. In the early lunchtime, he has a much more peaceful demeanor.

Sitting and discussing what brought him to this point in his life, he goes into the work he does for his music.

“I produce it, I mix it, I master it,” Peggy says. “Just on my laptop with my headphones.” He achieves something many people strive for but rarely execute so well: being the only person involved in the creation of his music from inception to release.

After more than a decade of making music, and many shows of playing for “about 10 people” until recently, he’s reached a critical point. Landing on massive tastemaker playlists, hitting plays in the hundreds of thousands on Spotify, and perhaps most impressively, getting the highest score from a review by Anthony Fantano thus far into 2018 for his latest album, “Veteran.”

“That’s how the world works,” JPEGMAFIA explains. “Somebody with a larger platform hears something they like and they put it out to a wider audience. Fantano giving it a good review is one thing, it gave it the bump, but the sustain hype is probably off of the rest of the press and also, just word of mouth. If the music is ass, eventually people are just gonna say no. No matter how much the music is cosigned.”

JPEG pulls up his laptop to a Youtube video of himself performing what is perhaps his biggest song so far, “Baby I’m Bleeding.” It features him in 2016 screaming into a crowd that seems too confused to be excited. Compared to the night before, in which he used the track as his final song and making the biggest mosh of the night, the video looks
extra ridiculous.

“I paid my rent with hip-hop money last month,” Peggy says. He lets out a smile that feels like a mixture of relief and excitement.

“My goal is to be financially stable from music,” the artist states. With a fanbase large enough to sustain the type of career he always craved, the future is now in his hands.

It is not just what is to come, but also the past and present that JPEG has a great grasp on. As a rapper who values lyrics highly, he does not hold anything against the current environment
around rap.

“If someone tells you hip-hop has to be a certain way, they’re wrong,” Peggy says. “Complaining about hip-hop changing is like complaining that you’re gonna die at some point. There’s something for everyone. If you want suburban sh*t, Brockhampton. Street sh*t, Hoodrich Pablo Juan. If you want a n**** that raps about food, you got Action Bronson. If you want a n**** that raps about memes, you got Ugly God.

“This is a golden age right now and people won’t admit that until like 20 years from now. ‘We miss the Soundcloud sh*t,’ they’ll say.”

It is not just music that JPEGMAFIA has educated himself on. Even after a short time in conversation, it becomes clear that when he talks about residing in the internet, he means it. While recounting the story of a lazy blogger reviewing his album and criticizing his supposedly nonsensical references, JPEG says, “I like putting in those obscure references because it kind of shows who’s doing their research and who’s not.”

Later on, he proves his own penchant for research, as he talks about lurking on Google groups pages of old archived conversations from Usenet, a precursor to internet forums established
in the 80s.

Like a historian, he understands what will change, what never changes and what is
simply cyclical.

“Rock in the 60s, when the younger kids were listening to it, like Hendrix, the people from the 40’s didn’t f*ck with that sh*t. ‘It’s satanic, it’s evil.’ Now those same people cling to that sh*t for their dear lives. The dads — in the future, it’s gonna be dad-hop yo. N****s gonna be clinging to like Lil Pump. It’s like ‘No bro, Pump was that dude.’”

So where does JPEGMAFIA put himself in this exciting landscape? Well, it’s unknown. Whatever his plans are for the future though, it is clear that JPEGMAFIA is comfortable with
whatever happens.

He is the type of dude who jumps into the crowd, kneels in the middle of the mosh pit only to be predictably crushed by bodies. So don’t worry, just stay in the loop and enjoy.