Favorite Track: “SICK, NERVOUS, AND BROKE!” Least Favorite Track: "NICE!"
With production equipment and online resources to learn how to manage your own music, status, and PR being incredibly easy to access, it is becoming quite common that the average artist does their own stunts in one form or another. Artists like Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean, notably some of the biggest names in music, have sung the praises of being self-managed artists for years. Frank Ocean split from his label Def Jam Records in 2016, and went on to release Blond to baffling critical acclaim and a legend status that few records in the 2010’s even come close to. By splitting from a major label and going on to release an album as successful as he did, Frank not only proved to labels that they were not priority number one, but he also helped pave a new lane for artists who may have felt restricted or ostracized by their labels.
Upon release of JPEGMAFIA’s 2021 album LP!, fans learned that Peggy would be taking a similar path to that of Frank Ocean, announcing that he was leaving his current label Republic Records, and asserting that LP! was going to be his last release under a label. To add extra clarification for fans who may have been confused as to why, he said that he would be releasing two versions of the album, one that would be available to the general public through streaming services, (dubbed the “Online Version”), and one available for purchase for fans through the community streaming service Bandcamp, (titled the “Offline Version”). The two albums sport much of the same outline, but have some small differences in the tracklist. and The Offline Version comes with a long message to the listener announcing his departure from Republic Records where Peggy vents on his frustrations with the music industry, the restraints on creativity said industry puts on artists, and pledges to continue to make music to satisfy the people who appreciate him no matter what he does.
After building his reputation on left-field rap music that is indebted to meme and internet culture, Peggy is an artist that has garnered a cult following for his unique and creative personality and philosophies on music. Whether it be paying homage to the pioneers before him with a expertly-flipped Ol’ Dirty Bastard sample on “Real Nega” or throwing shade at white supremacists on the aptly titled “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies” from 2018’s Veteran, Peggy continuously proves himself to be someone who is impossible to pin down when it comes to sound, ideas, or public persona. His music has never been easy to get into, with beats ranging from abrasive to flat-out odd. His albums consistently run more like collages of wacky ideas than coherent projects, with tracks flowing loosely together without much commonality. However, for anyone looking to get into JPEGMAFIA as an artist, you may be in luck with LP!
While this album is still not easy to pin down stylistically, the sounds on it are significantly less ostracizing to people who may not be accustomed to the often strange ideas of experimental hip-hop. Songs like “DAM! DAM! DAM!” and “WHAT KIND OF RAPPIN’ IS THIS?” sound like something you would find on an Isaiah Rashad or Mick Jenkins project, using their relaxed simplicity to their advantage to show off Peggy’s effortless flows and enamoring lyrical play. “BMT!”, although sporting a somewhat abrasive 808 pattern, is a pretty simplistic track that is a raw display of charisma and aggression, with a repeating sample and a loud and raucous vocal performance coming together to make for one of the hardest bangers in the tracklist that still remains quite easy to digest. Even the strangest track on record, “NEMO!”, is quite easy to stomach once you look past its somewhat off-kilter beat that sounds like it could have been made on a toy piano pulled from the children’s section of your local Target. The chorus is a total earworm, and the fact that Peggy can create something so accessible out of something quite abstract sonically is definitely a virtue to be celebrated.
In fact, one of the greatest strengths of LP! is that it does not ask nearly as much of the listener on the forefront as an album like Veteran or Black Ben Carson. LP! is capable of enticing the listener with sticky choruses, fun and fiery flows, and immaculate production before forcing them to dissect something as remarkably odd and abrasive as a track like “Germs” from Veteran. From the spastic, glittering synth lines and the signature “You think you know me” calling card of Peggy’s production on the opener “TRUST!” to the album’s final moments, there is never a point where the average listener curious about Peggy as an artist should be put off by the production style or song structures.
In a fashion entirely true to Peggy’s previous works, there are some moments where LP! has a tendency to feel disjointed. The wild ideas on the record sometimes don’t entirely mesh with each other, and may feel as though you are listening to less of a holistic album experience and more of a mixtape composed over multiple years of work. This isn’t to say the quality of every song isn’t there, but if you are someone who looks for a central theme or story to your albums, you will likely not be satisfied by this record. There are some moments where the ideas Peggy comes up with don’t entirely land within the context of the album either, as the blaring guitars and anthemic metal style instrumental on “END CREDITS!” doesn’t entirely fit into a record filled with loud 808s and synthetic hi-hats. “NICE!” is another moment on the album where most will be left wondering about the specific part the song was meant to play, as Peggy never makes an appearance and it acts as a seemingly pointless interlude from one track to the next. However, beyond a few minor missteps in the tracklist and a slightly disjointed flow as an entire album, LP! resists most criticism that can be leveled against it.
On LP!, JPEGMAFIA doesn’t reinvent his sound, but for someone whose sound still continues to be entirely unique more than five years after his debut, it would be pointless to argue for anything else. The songs are still catchy, innovative, wonderfully produced and crafted. His creativity and philosophy on what it means to make original music and make your mark on the musical landscape is entirely unique to him, and LP! is a fantastic example of that mark. After a split from his label, the most any fan can hope for is that LP! will act as a mission statement for Peggy’s future, and that the sheer drive, creativity, and love for his work that shines through so clearly on LP! continues well into the future.