With All My Heroes Are Cornballs, JPEGMAFIA has created his masterpiece, the next bold step of the Peggy legacy. It is the greatest proof that in a corporately dominated industry, the truest forms of art come from those bold enough to tackle everything themselves, and JPEGMAFIA does exactly that with unrivalled spirit.
JPEGMAFIA doesn’t do half measures; he never has and never will. My first experience of his music was last year’s Veteran album; a vivid, almost maniacal rap album consisting of unique samples, headstrong bars and mind-blowing energy. It propelled his name to a level that would’ve been seen as unprecedented for music so abrasive and sonically challenging. Ever since that album he has gained superstar admirers and friends, including the likes of James Blake, Denzel Curry, Flume and Frank Ocean. Veteran was his essential breakthrough, but what has come next is his true arrival in a new sense.
Peggy’s new release, the phenomenally titled All My Heroes Are Cornballs, has gathered mass anticipation due to his ferociously likeable persona and his one-of-a-kind musical innovation. The build-up to the album has been as enthralling as the listen itself, with Peggy coining the album as a “disappointment” throughout the promotional period before its release. It was a faultless marketing scheme because the irony of calling your own album a “disappointment” meant fans were even more excited, as well as being used as a fair warning that this album would be far from a Veteran sequel.
18 tracks long, 45 minute runtime, song titles as bizarre and hilarious as they come; it is without doubt the most sonically diverse album of the year. It becomes a near impossibility to pin this thing down to one genre, whether that be because of the autotuned power ballad high notes that are then followed by aggressive rap bars, or the fact there are interpolations of classic hits like TLC’s No Scrubs; done in Peggy’s unmistakably off-the-wall style. There’s a sound, feeling, lyric, beat and moment on this album for literally every single music fan on Earth, while there’s also moments that will downright terrify or confuse people.
The lead single was enough to give people an insight into what this would truly be; not least with its elaborate title. Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot is, for my money, the best single of 2019. The raw passion Peggy puts in is mentioned in his lyrics (“I put my soul into every bar, and every verse, and every rhyme”) but it’s also painfully apparent how big a moment this song is for him. It’s a captivating listen from start to finish and never fails to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The album’s unique title can, on the surface, be seen as a quirky, funny jab at the evolution of time and how the idea of being a hero is corny; but there’s far more to it than that. All My Heroes Are Cornballs references cancel culture and the dangers it possesses, Peggy shows his awareness of how toxic modern society truly can be when it comes to cancelling famous people. His point is that these famous people back then were doing what society deemed normal back then, but now we look at it and scream “cancelled” at any chance possible, so Peggy is saying he’s aware that one day he will follow that ritual and probably be cancelled around 20-30 years from now; joining that group of cancelled, shamed celebrities.
Features and guest spots are few and far between. There are just three credited features listed on the album, none of which I am aware of artistically, and the entire production credit list has one name on it: JPEGMAFIA. He truly takes centre stage on this thing and let me tell you, he rocks it like it’s Sunday night at Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage.
Perhaps this album’s greatest strength is the thing you least expect given just how choppy and outlandish it is in the production. It is an incredible cohesive album; flowing seamlessly between songs and, given the harsh best switches in the middle of some songs, the song transitions are actually smoother than the abruptness of the beat switches. For example, the flexibility of a song like Post Verified Lifestyle means it changes more suddenly within the song’s 3 and a half minutes than it does before and after.
JPEGMAFIA’s production is utterly independent and immersive, but there’s a few cases where you hear his influences on the instrumentals. The title track and the aforementioned Post Verified Lifestyle have these very Flume-esque high keys mixed with snares and drums; the work the pair of them did on Flume’s mixtape this year has clearly left a great mark on Peggy’s production nouse.
We get the best of both worlds on this album; the hard-hitting, face-melting raps we’ve grown accustomed to with JPEGMAFIA, but we also get a subtlety to his vocals; some gorgeous autotuned singing and harmonies. Songs like PRONE! and DOTS FREESTYLE REMIX show us the gritty bars of old, while Thot Tactics and Free The Frail possess absolutely stunning hooks that flex his creative muscles. How telling is it that a once brash, noisy rapper has done soothing R&B better than 95% of the field, such is the talent of JPEGMAFIA.
I could sing this album’s praises until the end of time, but I’ll sum it up in shorter terms for you here. JPEGMAFIA has created an album that lays it all on the line, completely unafraid of criticism while showing a distinct lack of sonic conformity. The lyrics are honest and personal, welcoming us into his world of rising to fame; the production throws you off as often as it leaves you awe-inspired, and vocally he adds a level of melody and harmony that simply shouldn’t come so naturally to an “aggressive experimental rapper”. It is a definitive statement that he isn’t just here to stay, but he’s here to leave a dynasty.
Best Tracks: Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot; Kenan Vs Kel; Beta Male Strategies; PTSD; Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind; All My Heroes Are Cornballs; BBW; PRONE!; Thot Tactics; Free The Frail; DOTS FREESTYLE REMIX; Papi I Missed You;
Worst Tracks: N/A