Often times when an artist finally nails their breakout album, their following one seems to have much more “pop” aspects and fewer controversial themes, presumably so they will be able to appeal more easily to their growing fanbase. Most artists wouldn’t have the gall to release an extremely abstract and experimental album to follow up the project that granted them national recognition, for fear that it may kill their newfound stardom.
JPEGMAFIA goes against the grain with his third studio album.
“All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” released Sept. 13, is one of the wackiest and wildest-sounding experimental rap albums of the year. JPEGMAFIA, also known as his self-proclaimed moniker “Peggy,” doesn't reach for the appeal of the masses with his new tracks. Rather, Peggy appears to be cultivating his true fans, potentially weeding out listeners who are only familiar with his widely acclaimed 2018 release “Veteran.”
The first of 18 songs on the album, “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot,” serves as a disclaimer for how chaotic the album will be and features multiple beat switches in the first half-minute accompanied by layered vocals over both verses Peggy spits. A smooth and dreamy chorus acts as a buffer between the more aggressive verses.
Another in the long list of songs with interesting titles on this album, “Beta Male Strategies” is a response to internet trolls and people on Twitter who Peggy wishes would say things to his face. “Say what you said on Twitter right now/You only brave with a board and a mouse,” he says.
JPEGMAFIA uses all three verses to take shots at “fragile” listeners who are only interested in starting a scandal. The final verse includes the line, “Rap been so good to me, I hope it get me canceled,” which is in reference to recently coined “cancel culture,” where people online claim an artist is “canceled” and must be blacklisted, usually if they have done something the public could get upset about.
The title track shows up halfway through the tracklist and features Peggy switching back and forth from singing to rapping over one of the most purposefully confusing yet pleasant beats I’ve ever heard. A synthetic xylophone sound is the base of the song, with choppy and static vocals interjected periodically. The track ends with Peggy’s friend having a hilariously awkward drive-thru interaction at a fast-food joint, struggling to order a bacon smokehouse meal.Weighty percussion and aggressively rapped bars give the song “PRONE!” dark and sinister qualities, suitable for a track solely about gun violence and murder. The whole song has a rock ‘n’ roll level of energy, that is until the final thirty seconds when the beat does a complete reverse and becomes serene. From there, Peggy penned lines about the ocean, trees, birds, bears and all of nature's beauty. It’s almost like he is trying to make you forget that, less than a minute prior, he said, “I ain't even gon' try to conceal the chrome, let's get it on/Yeah, now get him gone/Bullets through his neck and his backbone.”
“Free the Frail,” featuring Helena Deland, provides a lowkey R&B hit for the project and gives the listener’s ears a chance to breathe. While simpler sounding than other songs on the record, it is by no means one-dimensional. Deland and Peggy put together a charming chorus while Peggy takes the rest of the song to recall what it was like to blow up essentially overnight. However, Deland gets the final word in by concluding the song with a delightful and gentle half-verse.
At just over four minutes, the longest song on the tracklist brings the record to a close. “Papi I Missed U” feels the most straightforward and honest of all the tracks Peggy put on the record, with minimal sonic distractions. It feels like the point where he is most directly communicating to the listener, almost rewarding them for tolerating the amalgamation of sounds that it led up to. As much as I want to praise the track entirely, the last minute-and-a-half is just a drawn-out, spooky instrumental that will certainly be ignored on any replays of the song.
JPEGMAFIA was certainly going for a particular attitude on this album —- one that prevents him from being put into a box with any other rapper currently putting out music. Peggy impressively manages to produce, mix and master 18 widely different beats, each with gnarly beat switches that make you question if the next song has already begun while also finding the proper verses to accompany each wacky sound. Truly a one man band, Peggy made this ballad for him and his long-lived fans, although I feel this project will garner even more new followers thanks to its unapologetic chaos.