Reggie Duvivier


jpegmafia continues to disappoint … and we love it

November 12, 2019

In a little under two years, JPEGMAFIA has gone from an obscure rapper on Bandcamp to a cult phenomenon. Peggy’s gift as an MC isn’t about intricate “lyrical miracle” wordplay as much as it is his ability to distill and manipulate the bigoted white noise and meme culture of the internet and use them as both his medium and weapon of choice. Peggy takes the racist talking points of the alt-right, the misogyny of the incel movement, and the pervasive homophobia found online and attacks them with righteous disdain and wry humor. For him, trolls are to not only be opposed but also lampooned.

JPEGMAFIA’s irreverence is a defining attribute of his both on and off records. In a clever subversion of expectations, Peggy promoted his latest album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, with tongue-in-cheek interviews claiming it would be “disappointing.” On the contrary, his music kept the same anger and intensity while displaying a widened musical palette; you aren’t going to find many records that are as indebted to Public Enemy as they are to the Backstreet Boys (his “Free The Frail” video captures this perfectly). Last week, at Bowery Ballroom in New York City Peggy brought it all — the humor, punk attitude, and DIY aesthetic —to the stage at a sold-out show to remind us of his IRL appeal.

First up that evening was opener Butch Dawson. Part of the same Baltimore underground rap scene that birthed JPEGMAFIA (he was one of the few guests on Peggy’s, Black Ben Carson), Butch approaches his songcraft in a more traditionally MC way with a focus on meticulously constructed bars. In a live setting, however, it’s all punk energy. He prowled, crawled, and jumped all over the stage and kept the crowd on their toes and off their feet as they moshed along.


JPEGMAFIA hit the stage exactly thirty minutes later; one of the few hip-hop shows I’ve seen over the years that actually ran on time. In the years it took JPEGMAFIA to become an overnight success he’s perfected his live performance. He spent as much of his set interacting with the audience as he did rapping; telling stories, repeatedly stage diving and crowd-surfing, performing in the middle of the crowd. This high level of interaction was a feat for Peggy who performed solo, sans DJ, band, or hypeman. A literal one-man show, he continually transitioned from full-throated rap vocals to running his two-laptop setup — cueing up tracks and manipulating the sound of his mics.

On record and onstage JPEGMAFIA is a firebrand but he balances the rage with humor. With the aggressive 808 kicks and ominous sub-bass loops he raps over it doesn’t take much to whip the crowd into a raging frenzy but as that energy reaches a fever pitch he switches up vibe to lighten the mood. For this performance, he introduced his collaborative track with Kenny Beats, “Puff Daddy,” with a speech railing against police brutality only to pull back and playfully announce, “This next track was produced by a cop,”  an allusion to a running joke between the producer and his rapper friends keeps things light. Even the softer clean sung tracks from All My Heroes… like “Grimy Waifu” and “Free the Frail” went over great with the mosh-ready crowd. 

As he closed his set out JPEGMAFIA ran to his laptops and stopped the music. “I just want to thank everyone that’s here,” he panted, out of breath from the corner of the stage while the crowd cheered. JPEGMAFIA may have spent the last hour calling out the things that pissed him off, but between him and his fans, it’s all love.