Review: JPEGMAFIA’s album “LP!” a continuation of the rapper’s signature style
Although the album contains some superfluous tracks, its chaotic sound is effective.
With his fourth full-length album in five years, “LP!,” JPEGMAFIA furthers his reputation as one of the most experimental hip-hop artists working today.
JPEGMAFIA, also known as Peggy, released his debut album, “Black Ben Carson,” in 2016, but many, including myself, were introduced to his music with 2018’s “Veteran.” With its eclectic samples, disjointed production and dark tone, “Veteran” laid the groundwork for the music Peggy would make in the future. His follow-up album, “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” further improved on this style, landing at number five on my list of the top ten albums of 2019.
Since then, Peggy has released two EPs, and now “LP!”, for which he did all of the production. Refining his experimental electronic hip-hop with aggressive lyrics and flows, the album is chaotic. While “LP!” is overly long and bloated at points, its good songs are really good, and it marks another successful installment in Peggy’s career.
It is important to note that there are two versions of the album: the “online” version, released on streaming services, and the “offline” version, available on free platforms like YouTube and Bandcamp. The most likely reason for the existence of multiple versions is that Peggy was unable to get some of the samples he initially used cleared by their owners. Each version includes some songs that the other does not, though the “online” version is slightly shorter. For the purposes of this review, I will only make reference to the 18-track “online” version, as it is the version of the album that most casual listeners will come across.
Peggy makes it clear right off the bat that “LP!” will not sound like a typical hip-hop album with the opening song, “TRUST!” The production is dominated by strange synths, a trademark of Peggy’s experimental electronic style. While the lyrics of the song are basic, the unconventional instrumental immediately captures the ear. This effect is turned up a notch in the third song, “NEMO!” which features synths that almost sound squishy. The fact that Peggy delivers such great flow over such irregular production is a testament to his skill as a rapper.
Other tracks on the album show Peggy’s unique ability to produce songs that sound both entirely disjointed and somehow coherent. The seventh track, “ARE U HAPPY?” is the embodiment of pure chaos; samples of not only robotic techno music, but also spoken word asides and of sung vocals, are all jumbled together, making it impossible for the listener to settle into any kind of groove. However, Peggy controls this cacophony so well that it makes it one of the most enjoyable songs to listen to on the album.
The aforementioned “NEMO!” is another demonstration of Peggy’s mastery of chaos. The entire track is off-kilter, refusing to give the listener any kind of break. While the high-pitched synth melody constitutes the most notable part of the song, it often goes out without warning, keeping the listener on their toes.
Many songs on the album more closely resemble mainstream hip-hop songs, although each retains its own flair. The second track, “DIRTY!”, is more in the style of the opening track of Peggy’s second album “Veteran,” “1539 N. Calvert.” While its production is more laid back than other songs, its lyrics and flows are intense, showcasing Peggy’s ability to express emotion. The eighth track, “REBOUND!” — one of the best on the album — follows in a similar vein. Its production is defined by a booming, low-pitched horn sample, creating a deep anchor for the track that prevents it from being too tumultuous.
Other songs that demonstrate Peggy’s mastery over a more traditional hip-hop style are “DAM! DAM! DAM!” and “BMT!” The former is one of the calmer tracks on the album, featuring an ascending keyboard riff in the production. Conversely, the latter song is one of the harshest, with a blown out bassline and spiteful lyrics. Both exhibit Peggy’s ability to combine his own niche stylings with existing sounds.
Lyrically, Peggy sums up his style with a line on the fourth track, “END CREDITS!”: “And I only rap out of spite / Loss is the theme of my life.” On this album, Peggy most prominently disses New York hip-hop duo Armand Hammer. On “REBOUND!” Peggy raps, “N — as named after baking soda, but ain’t never touched no fuckin’ coke in your city,” a reference to the similarity between the Armand Hammer’s name and Arm & Hammer baking soda.
Despite all of the fantastic songs on “LP!”, there are a few that feel unnecessary to the album. The tracks “OG!” and “KISSY, FACE EMOJI!” are both uninteresting in contrast to other dynamic and unusual songs. Similarly, the album’s longest track, “SICK, NERVOUS & BROKE!” is not exciting enough to justify its five-and-a-half-minute run time.
The final three songs are also extraneous. All three appeared on Peggy’s 2020 EP “EP!” and, while all are good songs, feel tacked on to the end of the album to pad run time lost by songs that did not have cleared samples. This is especially true of the final two tracks, as the closer “BALD! REMIX” is a minor variation on the penultimate track “BALD!” These tracks seem crammed in, and make for a disappointing close to the album.
Overall, despite its bloat, “LP!” marks a progression in Peggy’s unique niche style. Additionally, the track “THOT’S PRAYER!” features a heavy interpolation of Britney Spears’ 1998 hit “...Baby One More Time,” making “LP!” Peggy’s second full length album in a row where he covers a classic pop song; on “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” the song “BasicBitchTearGas” is effectively a cover of TLC’s 1999 hit “No Scrubs.” This kind of thread between albums creates a nice callback for longtime fans of Peggy’s and demonstrates the artistic consistency of his albums. The album’s highs are very high, ranking among the best songs he has ever created. These tracks, particularly “REBOUND!”, “NEMO!” and “ARE U HAPPY?” feel like a natural evolution of the sounds on “Veteran” and “All My Heroes Are Cornballs.” As a whole, “LP!” is another great chapter in Peggy’s discography, and a fine collection of songs.
Rating (online): ★★★☆☆