I am not a fan of this generation’s hip hop. All of that bubblegum colored, vibe obsessed, face tattooed, mush mouthed, non-sensical mumble rap nonsense that’s been trending for the past few years I could definitely do without. If every millennial sad boy with a Lil in their moniker disappeared from this world in a cloud of vape smoke, a tear I would not shed.
But that’s just the curmudgeon in me talking.
I can vaguely see why this new wave of emo rap connects with the youth of today (they all just want to be high, sad and not have to listen to actual lyrics, right?) but whether I do or don’t isn’t the issue. This music wasn’t made for me and, as a tax paying adult over the age of thirty, I have the unassailable right to not give a single ounce of a shit about any new music.
So imagine my surprise when I start hearing about this emerging artist from Baltimore on the verge of breaking out who is not only post all of this Gucci Gang Gucci Gang bullshit I can’t stand but who also used a sample of WWF Attitude Era legend Edge’s walk up music as his producer tag. While the former made me skeptical of initially investing, it was curiosity of the latter that single handedly got me to investigate further.
Boy, am I glad I did because a few weeks ago, experimental hip-hop provocateur JPEGMAFIA (born Barrington Hendricks or Peggy for short) released his third studio album “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” and all this stock I got on him is about to blow the fuck up.
Falling dead center in my personal Venn diagram of things in modern music that intrigue me (artsy-fartsy genre busting bedroom hip-hop, skittering left of center beats with chip tune flourishes crafted on broken MPCs in empty rooms and a more palatable version of the band Death Grips’ hardcore thrash rap dynamic) sits “All My Heroes Are Cornballs.” Already entrenched as my favorite album of the year, the aspect of “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” that entranced me the most is it’s being the complete opposite of timeless. This collection of songs is quintessentially of the moment, a 2019 record through and through.
It’s political and paranoid themes carried over from Peggy’s excellent last album “Veteran” are supercharged through sheer contrast by a set of tracks written from the female perspective. Led by the single “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot” and it’s sky high hook, (“You better count your blessings for real”) some of my favorite album highlights are from that triptych of gender bent songs. Peggy’s haunting take on TLC’s “No Scrubs” on “BasicBitchTearGas” was especially breathtaking the second it engaged my nostalgia centers. As much as I love his aggressive hardcore punk flavored rap flow (which he used with aplomb on the last album to spine-tingling effect), Peggy’s further incorporation of his bloodshot eyed soul croon to his already chaotic sound is what takes “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” to the next level, tonally and texturally. Nowhere is this balance more evident than in my favorite track “Grimy Waifu” a softly plucked string-centric ode to a gun cosplaying as Peggy’s significant other.
Despite seeming like I’m skewing all my platitudes to one side of the record, rest assured that Peggy still brought the bangers (“JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT” / “PRONE!” / “Post Verified Lifestyle”) and the bars (“Some people need a hero, my n***** need a Bane” / “Bitch I’m Beanie Sigel mixed with Beatles with a dash of Doom at 98 degrees” / “One shot turn Steve Bannon into Steve Hawking”) to this sprawling meditation on being famous, hated, woke, asleep, pissed and scared in the age of the Internet.
Self described as “a disappointment” and “just really whack shit” during the run up to it’s release, “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” not only proved those sentiments to be false but it also presented itself as a reminder that, while it is within your every right to never trust any music released after your thirtieth birthday, one should never overlook former Air Force noise rap emcees / post everything beat smiths with chips the size of boulders permanently grafted on their shoulders.
They just might be the one cooking up that new desert island disc you never saw coming.
You think you know Peggy?
Trust me, you’re in for a big surprise.
Illustration by Jericho Vilar