In March of this year, JPEGMAFIA, informally known as Peggy or Buttermilk Jesus, performed in support of Vince Staples at The State Theatre here in Ithaca. He stumbled onto the stage, squinting, with a huge smile on his face. “I just took a bunch of edibles,” he announced, laughing. Within a few seconds, he dropped the first track (something off of his sophomore album Veteran, I was too busy moshing to take note of which one) and sent the venue into utter chaos.
For those unfamiliar with Peggy, born Barrington Hendricks, he first began performing during his military stay in Japan. He was a part of a group called Ghostpop, which had a local following in Tokyo. When he was honorably discharged — after serving in Iraq and spending years in Kuwait, Germany and North Africa — Peggy moved to Baltimore.
He quickly emerged as one of the most exciting new artists in hip hop with the release of his debut Black Ben Carson. But it wasn’t until Veteran that Peggy would receive critical acclaim and be hailed as one of the most original acts in music.
His latest release, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, is as relentless, hard-hitting and loud as his prior two releases. The collaborations with Kenny Beats, Injury Reserve and other noise-beat producers are evident; the instrumentals are scattered, but there is a method to the madness.
Peggy seems to have grown quite a bit from his past release, strategically trading screams for harmonies. And, although there was certainly an effort made to create a more listenable album with All My Heroes Are Cornballs, JPEGMAFIA’s latest release is more original than ever. It’s just as political and chaotic as his previous work, but we see a more sultry side to the Baltimore rapper. Most notably, Peggy seamlessly blends tears down gender roles in his rhymes and switches narratives with ease.
“Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot,” which was released over a month ago, opens the album and will clearly become the breakthrough track. While it certainly isn’t the best song, it is the most accessible — it can easily send crowds across the world into a frenzy, but it also has a vibe perfect for lo-fi house parties.
The middle section of the album flows seamlessly, and before you know it, you’ve headbanged your way through a good half-hour. There are even a few instrumental tracks that go as hard as anything off Veteran.
The standout of the first half is clearly “Grimy Waifu,” which Peggy describes as a song about a gun. While this track, and its transition into “PTSD,” is impressive, the real peak of the album comes near the end. “Thot Tactics” could be a contender for song of the year, if it hadn’t been one-upped one track later. “Free The Frail” alone makes All My Heroes Are Cornballs deserving of a Grammy nod. Its chord changes are beautiful and Helena Deland’s voice shines through Peggy’s crooning falsetto.
Finally, the album closes with “Papi I Missed U,” which ironically enough feels like the song Peggy will choose to open the shows on his tour with. It’s the track which resembles Veteran the closest and will be sure to incite riot-level mosh pits at his shows. However, I hope that this song’s meaning doesn’t get lost in performance. On this track, Peggy opens up about his experience with racism and takes an Amiri Baraka-type stance on the topic. In an interview with Apple Music, Peggy speaks on “Papi I Missed U” and how the song is about giving “all this shit these racist types give to people of color” right back and how he is “watching them [these racist types] scatter because they can’t fucking take it.”
Peggy cautioned his fans to beware of disappointment from All My Heroes Are Cornballs. After a few listens, it’s safe to say his warning was unnecessary. This is what the peak of a music career looks like, and it’s hard to imagine this album not being immortalized.
Peter Buonanno is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He currently serves as the Arts and Entertainment editor on the Sun’s editorial board. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @peterfredericb.