Twitter / JPEGMAFIA

Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, aka JPEGMAFIA, aka Peggy, aka Buttermilk Jesus, aka The Left-Wing Hades, has been self-making music for a long time. The other day, I stumbled across a Reddit post in which, as Devon Hendryx (his original stage name), he confesses to being close to quitting music – “I don’t think ill ever rap again”. Thank God he didn’t quit, because LP! is the culmination of years of Peggy’s success ever since his breakout album, Veteran, in 2018. Over the past three years, he’s honed his homegrown production, writing, rapping, singing, mixing and mastering to produce an album that feels like Peggy in his purest form.

“One would expect the album to feel messy or random – yet it somehow all coheres”

His particular brand of experimental noise-rap is intrinsically unpredictable – Peggy is interchangeably aggressive and braggadocious, but also nostalgic, lonely and tender. It’s a mix of styles to go along with his often wide-ranging and always idiosyncratic influences and sampling. “THOT’S PRAYER!” interpolates Britney’s “...Baby One More Time”, transforming it from an upbeat pop classic to something much softer and more melancholy. Meanwhile, Peggy samples progressive metal band Animals as Leaders on “END CREDITS!“, gospel music in “WHAT KINDA RAPPIN’ IS THIS?“, military march calls on “NICE!” and “BMT!“, electronic music collective Galaxy 2 Galaxy on “ARE U HAPPY?“, jazz saxophonist Stan Getz on “DIKEMBE!“, and so on. You get the idea. With so many disparate influences being drawn from, one would expect the album to feel messy or random – yet it somehow all coheres, with all these channels of inspiration being funnelled, combined and distilled through Peggy’s unique style, flow and cadence.

"I won't even lie, I'm looking good", JPEGMAFIA raps on album opener "TRUST!"

The album starts strong with “TRUST!“, a declaration of self-love (“I feel like celebrating, I ain’t been fucked up / Yeah, I been fucked over, still going hard”) over a glimmering synth instrumental. Peggy’s aggressive and tongue-in-cheek sense of humour shines through in “NEMO!” (“Fuckin’ that bitch like I’m goin’ to war”), and “REBOUND!” (“Why would I pray for your health? / Baby, I pray for myself”) – the latter of which has the hardest beat on the record, with grand horns and a DATPIFFMAFIA feature for good measure (“Shit woulda been a Zoom meeting ‘cause I woulda boxed up his face”). The aggro continues on another highlight, “SICK, NERVOUS & BROKE!” – (“What about that shit you said that year when I was broke? / And what about buyin’ a ticket to get beat up at my show?“). The album wraps up with the banging EP! singles “CUTIE PIE!” and “BALD!“, the former of which was dropped as part of Peggy’s How to Build a Relationship (or HTBAR) series on YouTube, which are messy low-fi montages of vlogs/raps/interviews with other musicians that epitomise Peggy’s free-for-all attitude to the content and music he creates.

JPEGMAFIA takes aim at other rappers in the industry on 2020 single "CUTIE PIE!"

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Indeed, this attitude is apparent in the album’s release itself. There are two versions of this album – an ‘online’ version available to stream on Spotify, and an ‘offline’ version released by Peggy himself on Bandcamp and YouTube. The offline version has some renamed tracks (two titles become emojis), and a few extra tracks with samples that couldn’t get officially cleared (like the banger “HAZARD DUTY PAY!“), and is the one that Peggy stands by. He calls it “the true LP!" in a Bandcamp post, which also details his long-standing disillusionment with the exploitative hip-hop industry – “I’ve been surrounded by people who never had my best interest at heart”. It’s this feeling of perpetually being an outsider and a loner, unrecognised for so long before finally achieving some critical and commercial success, that seems to drive many of Peggy’s lyrics (“This is my career, not a dice”, “Rip up a deal, settled for less”). Even the title, LP!, alongside his previously released EP! and EP2! is metatextual satire of his contractual obligation, brazenly burning his bridges with the music industry as, with this album, he leaves his label for good.

JPEGMAFIA has always been about integrity, self-reliance, risk-taking and eccentricity, both in his music-making, and his attitude to the industry that attempts to control and redirect it. LP! is a masterful collection of tracks, the best part of which is their production – Peggy’s chaotic yet cohesive blend of sounds, beats, and samples is genuinely unique, and has to be heard to be believed. One can only hope that, with this album, he emerges from the underground to enjoy the critical, if not commercial, success he deserves.