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JPEGMAFIA redefines the boundaries of hip-hop in his frenzied new album “Veteran”

February 2, 2018

Barrington Hendricks knows a thing or two about being profiled as a threat simply because of the color of his skin. In an interview I did with him for Afropunk, he hinted at being a victim of police harassment even in his youth. He went across the world to find that his skin was constantly looked down on. Now, a few years post-BLM, immigrants have been deported, cultural appropriation is at an all-time high along with lightskin privilege, and racists start getting bold enough to show their faces, let alone their existence on Twitter. (Actually, look upon the AFROPUNK Facebook posts and you will come across a few with ease.) This begs the question: what do you do when the real historically proven menaces to society not only infiltrate the White House, but seek to tear apart America through the denouncing of diversity? Well, if you are JPEGMAFIA, the one thing you would probably do is laugh.

‘Veteran’ is Peggy as the Black Jon Stewart. While laughing directly at America’s misfortunes, he isn’t above telling those same ones who caused it to man up of bitch up. Only from his point of view, the comedy is much darker and more provocative than usual. Think less South Park and more American Beauty or Fight Club.

Those catching up with Peggy knows that he captures the sound of the times we live in now. I mean from the sound of light gun rounds to a near tribal earthquake of an Ol’ Dirty Bastard sample, Peggy’s music is only as stable as the atmosphere in which America resides. It is only right that with that goes rhymes that shake the table as well.

Whether he is laughing at the current lack of popularity of rock n’ roll (the murky “Rock N’ Roll is Dead”, where alt-rights will get called out by group name en route), the God complex of those with Neo-Nazi and centrist mindsets (“1488”, which I recommend Googling in order to get the reference) or being one of those spitting in Morrissey’s direction (“I Cannot Wait Until Morrissey Dies”, which pulls out a well-timed reference to that Pepsi commercial), JPEGMAFIA pulls precisely zero punches, no matter how soft or how hard because he is well aware that for a man of his lyrical strength, his punches would hurt his detractors all the same.

Sometimes, he does it with subtlety, as he does with “Thoughts on NeoGAF Dying” (which bears a detached chorus of “I don’t care”) and the bouncy “Libtard Anthem”, which targets centrists and problematic liberals directly (“Word on the street: you fucked Tomi Lahren/Word on the street: I know my real mom”, etc) But this does not mean that he is saving all of his bile only for the white boys. Even POCs can get it, too.

The opener “1539 N. Calvert” opens with “I need all my bitches the same color as Drake”. Those who kept up with Peggy’s work would know that as a rap fan, he HATES Drake and has a vendetta against those who embrace colorism, which makes the line a tongue-in-cheek smirk at colorist rappers such as Kodak Black and xxxtentacion. Not to mention “Libtard Anthem” also prods black males, too, if you don’t already know about Tomi Lahren’s boy toy.

From the very beginning since the instant classic “Communist Slow Jams”, JPEGMAFIA channeled the negativity of being dark skinned into scathing raps directed towards white supremacy, anti-women rhetoric, colorism and, yes, cultural appropriation (which “Once They Build a Starbucks It’s Ova” singlehandedly dissed along with critics such as those writing for Pitchfork). ‘Veteran’ could have easily been another version of that album if he wanted it to be. Considering the shade America has been in these past few years, he has all the means to do so. JPEG decides to use ‘Veteran’ as a mirror for America, where most of those he criticizes would rather attempt to arrest him for stealing a funhouse mirror from some county fair.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” Safe to say, Peggy has enough to chuckle at for if Trevor Noah doesn’t last.

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