Nobody does it like JPEGmafia. It’s a common trope to suggest that a rapper walks in their own lane, or have developed their own space; it’s easy to say, but a lot more difficult to do. Across four albums in five years, JPEGmafia has done exactly that, pirouetting between defiantly left-field production choices, mosh pit anthems, and lyrics that moves from a cross-section of the sub-conscious mind to throwaway jokes.
‘LP!’ is, even by his own standards, emphatically broad. 18 tracks with nary a second wasted, his intense, finessed approach to creativity seizes upon each idea, pushes it to the very outermost, and then moves on. That’s perhaps how we go from the wayward electronica of ‘TRUST!’ to the 80s arena rock irony that floods through ‘END CREDITS!’; it’s also how we can go from the relative introversion of ‘NICE!’ while bypassing the celestial, surreal boom bap mini-manifesto that is ‘WHAT KIND OF RAPPIN’ IS THIS?’
Following his excellent ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’, ‘LP!’ leans in on the electronics, without sparring JPEGmafia’s almost punk-like directness. ‘OG!’ sounds like it was recorded direct to a cassette deck, while ‘BMT!’ builds on a distorted call and response chant.
Yet for all its left-field deviations, ‘LP!’ remains wholly accessible. Distilling complex ideas down into an infinitesimally small space, JPEGmafia twists in and out, a rap tricker on par with DOOM's catalogue yet utterly incomparable to anyone else in the field. Take ‘THE GHOST OF RANKING DREAD!’ and its mixture of bubbling West Coast synths and almost dub-like paranoia; or the explosive sonics that reside amidst ‘BALD!’; or the deeply physical structure that amplifies ‘DAM! DAM! DAM!’. You get the point: ‘LP!’ doesn’t traverse the same landscape twice – when JPEGmafia delivers an idea, he cuts it short and moves on.
A departure once more from the soulful sonics that draped themselves across previous release ‘EP2!’, JPEGmafia’s new album pivots into further unexplored territories. Art-rap that refuses to be hemmed in, ‘LP!’ excels by tapping in to the rapper’s undoubted verbal virtuosity, while augmenting it with blistering production. Another triumph from one of rap’s true creative visionaries.
Words: Robin Murray
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