When Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, aka JPEGMAFIA, aka Peggy, released ‘Veteran’ in 2018 he generated an incredible amount of hype, and Jpegs. He was heralded as the next big thing, saviour of hip-hop and all manner of grandiose plaudits.
Fortunately ‘Veteran’ lived up to this praise. It was an album that was born from social unrest, the internet and a love of optimism. It showed that Hip-Hop could be something else than bragging, bravado and bluster. Musically, taut beats cascaded over glittering synths taking the listener to a fluorescent and lucid place.
Now Peggy has return with its follow up, ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’, which he has dubbed as “disappointing”. Of course this is just Peggy being, well, Peggy as after listening to ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ it could be described as anything but disappointing. Peggy has filled it full of the same playful bounce, and reactionary lyrics, that made ‘Veteran’ such a powerful and intoxicating listen.
But don’t be mistaken, this isn’t ‘Veteran 2.0’. When asked about the creative process Peggy said: “When I went into this I had a completely blank head. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t wanna go into it with no preconceived anything. I just knew I wanted to make something in a space and time. When you just leaving it all out there, it kinda happens that way.”
And this is how the album feels. Lyrically ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ feels very stream of consciousness full of political commentary, the concerns of living in American 2019, whilst being engaging, humorous, and informative.
The album opens with lead single ‘Jesus Forgive Me, I am Thot’ and the lines “You think you know me”. Peggy’s part rap/sung vocals gently drift above a laconic beat and piano sample that meanders and twists, before a more abrasive and aggy chorus. ‘Kenan vs. Kel’ features lurid chimes and filigree lyrics before everything descends into buzz saw basslines and raw vocals.
This juxtaposition of sounds, and textures, is key to ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’. Peggy’s ability to seamlessly jump from shimmering cascading loops to brutal drill-esque breakdowns at a moment’s notice give the same feeling of excitement as when your favourite team scores or when a wrestler delivers their signature move out of nowhere.
‘Life’s Hard, Here’s A Song About Sorrel’ is a love-letter to the Caribbean drink. While this feels like a throwaway track it is fundamental in understanding the album and Peggy. Here he is referencing his Jamaican heritage and adding a light hearted moment to the album.
‘PTSD’ is one of the standout tracks. Here it feels like Peggy is channelling his military past, he served a tour of duty in Iraq and was stationed in Kuwait, German, Japan and North Africa before an honourable discharge. Murky synths underpin marching band sounding breakbeats create a feeling of anxiety and turmoil.
‘BasicBitchTearGas’ takes its inspiration from TLC’s monster ‘No Scrubs’. And this is what Peggy does well, takes something that you know and subverts it through a glitchy backing, stuttering acoustic guitar and manipulated vocals. Yes it's effectively a skit, but it works well to show that Peggy still has a sense of humour and is unabashed to embrace, and re-interrupt, his influences.
On ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ Peggy has proved anyone who questioned whether ‘Veteran’ was a fluke wrong and joined that elusive club of rappers, and musicians as a whole, who have released a second album stronger than their first.
“This album is my real life realisation.” Peggy recently said. And it feels real. After listening to the album and immersing yourself in Peggy’s world, it’s safe to say he is now a cornball.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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