JPEGMAFIA is perhaps the loudest member of his generation of underground hip-hop artists. Over the course of his career, JPEGMAFIA’s artistry has only gotten more intense. With a punky persona, intense, complex production and strong leftist views, JPEGMAFIA has become the voice of a Generation-Z counterculture jaded by the world they inherited and skeptical of authority.
On the Bandcamp page for JPEGMAFIA’s latest release, LP!, he wrote, “I don’t make music for casuals, there’s plenty of wanna be ass n***** to fill that void for u, if u just need some bullshit to put on in the background, while u do dishes or whatever.” A bold statement for sure, but not without a grain of truth. LP! is an album that demands your attention. It’s loud, hilarious, unapologetic and nearly impossible to listen to without getting sucked into its radical allure.
The version of LP! that demands your attention the most may depend simply on where you choose to get your music. In a puzzling move, JPEGMAFIA released two versions of LP!: an offline version, only available on Bandcamp and YouTube, and an online version, published to Spotify and Apple Music. Although most of the album remains the same, minor differences between songs and the exclusion of certain songs between versions make listening to the true LP! a frustrating experience.
While perhaps not as intense or instrumentally innovative as his previous releases, LP! is JPEGMAFIA at his most refined. Everything on this album just simply clicks. JPEGMAFIA’s flow on the album is liquid gold as he smoothly navigates complex glitchy beats. The production of the album is also nearly perfect, and everything from the boomy percussion to the dreamy synth breaks is simply a delight.
JPEGMAFIA’s sampling on LP! is characteristically impressive. Rage-fueled WWE wrestlers, rhythmic drill instructors and Britney Spears are among the soundbites which provide the backbone for LP!’s motley beats. Each sample is tightly woven into JPEGMAFIA’s tracks and only serves to accentuate the themes of the record. And the deep-cut nature of these samples feel like an inside joke between JPEGMAFIA and himself, almost as if he’s playing a scavenger hunt with the audience to find everything he’s borrowed.
LP! also sees JPEGMAFIA at his most vulnerable. JPEGMAFIA’S characteristic cynical neurosis is out in full force on this record as the album is fraught with his own anxieties over friends, fame and government. LP! also contains many references to JPEGMAFIA’s stint in the military, in which he found himself defending a country he felt didn’t care about him against their foreign foes. It’s clear that this experience, along with the heavy racism the artist experienced, fuel JPEGMAFIA’s hatred towards the white, nationalist establishment, which comes out heavy on LP!.
While the themes are heavy and the production is challenging, that doesn’t hold LP! back from being a fun album. JPEGMAFIA’s sardonic humor, which has previously cut him out against the alternative hip-hop scene, is not lost on this record. Songs on LP! are also brief and never overstay their welcome. They whip past each other, jumping from one genre-bending instrumental to the next, forming a cohesive flow. The overall consistency of this record, from reused instruments to the almost album-wide groove, makes this record feel like a holistic experience — an impressive feat since both versions of this record maintain similar continuity. In the same Bandcamp post where JPEGMAFIA claimed he didn’t “make music for casuals,” the artist also stated that LP! was going to be the last album released under a record label. There’s no doubt that this will be a move for the better. While LP! already stands out from anything on the scene right now, the future of JPEGMAFIA’s sound, finally free from corporate influence, knows no bounds. As for now, JPEGMAFIA has once again proved himself as one of the most innovative and thoughtful artists in the game.
Daily Arts Writer Kai Bartol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.