JPEGMAFIA’s experimental magnum opus

(Deathbomb Arc)

Almost every track on Baltimore rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA’s- colloquially known as Peggy – fourth studio album, “Veteran,” begins with a sample of a woman stating, “You think you know me.”

A fitting sentiment, since Peggy subverts expectations with nearly every song.

The album’s opener sports a melodic mellow synth lead that goes against everything the experimental producer has laid out on his previous releases, most notably 2016’s “Black Ben Carson.”

This immediately transitions into “Real N**a,” which prominently features an utterly insane vocal sample lifted from the beginning of ODB’s “Goin’ Down.” The looped vocals are then accompanied by an 808 drum beat.

Peggy’s experimental production style is far from the only highlight on the record – simply the fact he’s even able to flow on these beats is impressive in itself.

A standout song in this vein is “Germs.” How Peggy stays on beat along with the squeaky synths and the stretchy, slow-moving bassline is a mystery to me.

But it works.

His range of vocal styles is on par with the variety of his production. From the calm and collected flow he spits on tracks such as “I Cannot F*****g Wait Until Morrissey Dies” and “My Thoughts on Neogaf Dying,” to his smooth singing voice on “Thug Tears” and his aggressive near-yelling on “Rainbow Six,” JPEGMAFIA proves he can rap in pretty much any style.

While the production on this album is nothing short of experimental, Peggy implements a few familiar aspects here and there. The omni-present triplet flow, popularized by Migos pops up on a few tracks on “Veteran.” However, JPEGMAFIA acknowledges this flow is played out on the track “DD Form 214.”

That’s one thing that makes Peggy so special – his willingness to experiment with familiar sounds, while also letting his listeners know he’s fully aware of the direction hip-hop is going. He’s trying to steer the ship in a new direction without alienating everyone.

“Rainbow Six” is one of the three songs with featured artists on the 18-track album. Peggy doesn’t need to rely on other people to make a great record, but he also proves he’s able to produce for fellow rappers such as Yung Midpack, who sound at home on his off-kilter beats.

JPEGMAFIA packs his lyrics full of references to video games, film and pop culture. He tackles plenty of hard topics such as anxiety and panic attacks, but is also no stranger to familiar themes such as hating on President Trump or braggadocio.

While many of his topics aren’t completely original, Peggy always brings his own brand of witty humor.

If he doesn’t like someone, JPEGMAFIA isn’t afraid to go all out on them – the aforementioned Morrissey and Trump, but also Lena Dunham, Varg Vikernes, Pitchfork, the alt-right and plenty others are called out for their unsavory behavior on “Veteran.”

With this album, Peggy manages to make one of the best experimental hip-hop records in recent memory. He mixes the truly weird with some familiarities of modern rap in what will be a memorable album for any rap fan.

Grade: A, Familiar and foreign at the same time. JPEGMAFIA solidifies himself as one of the best experimental rapper/producers out there.

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