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JPEGMAFIA’s “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” is a Collage of Audial Brilliance

Baltimore-based rapper and producer JPEGMAFIA stitches together sonic vignettes on his new album All My Heroes Are Cornballs. On his third studio release, Peggy’s songs completely wash over the listener. From the start, All My Heroes Are Cornballs provides both thunderously raw and delicately smooth ideas that seamlessly juxtapose in a paradoxically complementary way. 

Beginning with “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot,” the album starts off on a dazzling note with Peggy rapping over soft, plucky synths that eventually evolve into compressed drums and antagonistic shouting. Pristine autotuned crooning enters the mix soon after, adding more flair and personality to the track. The song’s balance of the subdued and hostile is nothing short of impressive, and signals JPEGMAFIA’s approach to the rest of the album.

As one song flows into the next continuously, the creativity of the instrumentals shine. The distorted guitar lead on “Beta Male Strategies,” the chopped-up punk meltdown in the second half of “Kenan vs. Kel,” and the explosive “JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT” interlude all display JPEGMAFIA at his most raw and hard-hitting. Not too far off from the abrasive nature of his 2018 album Veteran, these tracks feel like classic Peggy.

His use of unusual sounds and drum arrangements show more influence from other artists and sounds than ever before. The wall of synths and hypnotic kick drum pattern on the first half of “Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind” are reminiscent of the heat-fueled textures of Boards of Canada’s Geogaddi.

However, what really makes All My Heroes Are Cornballs a turning point in JPEGMAFIA’s sound is the subtle reveal of the album’s more lush and soothing instrumentals, along with some of his most reflective lyricism. On “Free the Frail” and “Post Verified Lifestyle,” Peggy croons and raps about his quick exposure to hip-hop fame and reveals himself at his most vulnerable. 

However, on some of the other tracks on the album, Peggy contrasts some of his smoothest instrumentals with his most boastful lyrics. “Grimy Waifu” features Peggy romanticizing his gun over a light beat that features acoustic guitar and smooth-yet-roaring bass. The instrumental isn’t too far off from something that may appear on Frank Ocean’s Blonde. On “BBW,” which stands for “Black Brian Wilson,” and not “Big Beautiful Women,” he compares himself to the Beach Boys mastermind. 

On “DOTS FREESTYLE MIX,” Peggy takes his playful freestyle bars from the first episode of Kenny Beats’ “The Cave” YouTube series, and copy-and-pastes them over a melodic, twinkling beat that transitions into a gorgeous chiming bell sequence. The album ends with “Papi I Missed U,” in which he reflects on his career and redeclares himself as the “left-wing Hades” over an ominous and cryptic beat. 

Don’t let the ironic internet-humor titles leave with you with the impression that JPEGMAFIA’s new album is nothing short of a tour-de-force. Despite a couple of interludes that don’t really feel like listenable tracks on their own, All My Heroes Are Cornballs is JPEGMAFIA’s most consistent album yet, and is one of the best hip-hop and electronic albums of the year. It perfectly encapsulates the hectic energy of hip-hop in the internet era. The first listen may feel like sensory overload, so multiple listens are necessary in order for the album to unpack all of its ideas in a comprehensible fashion.

Best Tracks: “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot,” “Kenan vs. Kel,” “Free the Frail”

Least Favorite Track: “Lifes Hard, Here’s a Song About Sorrel”

Rating: 9/10

Review By: A.J. Frigoletto

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