Daring JPEGMAFIA album pays off

Jackson VolenecReporter

Despite JPEGMAFIA’s long career making music, with some projects dating back to 2007, his most recent record, “Veteran” that came out last year, put him on the map. “Veteran” had large success in the underground hip-hop scene and the Internet, with many praising it as one of their favorite albums of 2018. It’s It is not hard to see why; the album is an absolute roller coaster of abrasive, industrial instrumentals coupled with wild flows and confrontational lyrics.

On “Veteran” JPEG, aka Barrington Hendricks targeted groups such as the alt-right, Internet trolls, critics and just about anyone else he has distaste for. The album stands out amongst the sea of hip-hop albums that come out because of how undeniably personal and uncompromising it sounds, challenging new listeners with abstract sounds and concepts that may be jarring on initial listens. However, future listens reward the audience, as there are several layers to unpeel and digest with each playthrough.

Nearly two years later, JPEG has followed up “Veteran” with “All My Heroes are Cornballs,” an album that contains nearly all of the great aspects of his previous one, but now refined and perfected. Although this album may sound less harsh and abrasive, it is still a record that challenges one’s tastes, pushing the possibilities of hip-hop music with this experimental dive into the creative mind of JPEG.

This album is 18 tracks and 45 minutes long with each song averaging around 2 minutes and change. From its computerized production to the Internet culture that is discussed in the lyrics, this album starts extremely digital from start to finish. JPEG has said during interviews multiple time that he is a “product of the Internet,” and his music certainly verifies that statement.

The different tracks on this album explore several different moods and sonical sonic territories. The first track shows this perfectly, beginning with these gentle chords in the background that compliment JPEG’s
energetic flow and confident lyrics. After the first verse, however, the song pivots, with the beat transforming into this base-heavy banger. During this transformation, JPEG starts screaming his lyrics with passionate aggression. Eventually, the song loops back around into the original instrumental, and JPEG begins to sing with a beautiful auto-tuning effect on his voice. In my opinion, this first track flawlessly showcases the volatile nature of this album and captures many of the repeated themes throughout the record.

Throughout these tracks, JPEG brings a wide array of different instrumentals and production, each beat striving to sound as unique and mind-expanding as possible. Some of the cuts are more melodic, with synth-heavy production carrying out melodies. Tracks that show this style best on the album include “Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind,” “Free the Frail” and the title track. There seems to be an influence from pop, R&B and mainstream hip-hop on tracks like this.

Alternatively, songs like “PRONE!,” “Kel vs Kenan” and “Post Verified Lifestyle” are shining examples of JPEG’s aggression playing out in song in a way that makes most punk music sound tame in comparison. These songs feature bass-heavy beats, disturbing samples, and raw aggression displayed through his delivery. These tracks are absolutely thrilling to listen to if one is in the correct mood.

Overall, this is an album that is just as daring and experimental as its predecessor, if not more so. It is a project that was written, produced, mixed and recorded solely from Mr. Hendricks, something that is extremely impressive and uncommon to see play out this successfully. “All My Heroes are Cornballs” expands on the risk-taking ideas that were introduced on “Veteran” while simultaneously adding elements of R&B and pop music into the fray. These fusions of multiple genres go over beautifully, making for an extremely enjoyable hip-hop record that I anticipate will be looked back on as one of the best records of this era in music.

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