JPEGMAFIA
All My Heroes Are Cornballs


5.0
classic

Review

by robertsona STAFF
September 14th, 2019 | 204 replies


Release Date: 09/13/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It’s easy to become giddy over JPEGMAFIA’s mastery with the building blocks of tension and release.

All My Heroes are Cornballs is a monumental display of musical talent—a testament, first and foremost; an affirmation. 2016’s Black Ben Carson, though interesting, was full of labored and bad rapping that served to obscure JPEGMAFIA’s savvy as a producer; 2018’s Veteran was a huge step up but structurally a bit faint, loosely constructed and full of empty space. Now, just a year later, the 29-year-old artist has released All My Heroes are Cornballs, one of those early-career power moves so captivating it registers as nearly Machiavellian in the context of the present hip-hop hierarchy. Let’s be clear about what I really mean here: All My Heroes are Cornballs is f*cking great, instantly my favorite album of the year and a late-decade contender to be one of the best--I dunno, 15? 20?--albums in that period of time. Loosely constructed yes but nowhere near faint; filled everywhere with nooks and crannies of melodic gratification rendered more enticing for their brevity; armed with a powerful sense of pleasure and rupture as brethren rather than opposed forces—to listen to this record is to get positively clobbered by JPEGMAFIA’s skill and creativity.

Opening with shattering glass and people screaming, All My Heroes, like the albums before it, never lets up on the artist’s desire to affront. Some of the affrontery stems from JPEGMAFIA’s perspective as a lyricist, his confrontations with an inscribed audience and the Internet-addled context in which those confrontations unfold. Or, often, he might resort to some good old-fashioned structural collapse or sonic abrasion. This is an artist who is looking to prod at the limits of his audience’s patience and their ability to accept a wholly different perspective from their own. Yet this devotion to discomfort never feels like it is deprecating or sabotaging his practice as a genuinely talented songwriter. JPEGMAFIA’s seemingly instinctual sense of which chords will bounce off and inflect each other with the most sophistication stands unaccosted by his ever-present desire to come off badly to those he deems unworthy.

So, yes, the first single and opening track on this album is called “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot,” and it opens with glass shattering and screaming people. Yet look where it ends up: with the help of a piano that sounds like it is radiating daylight and JPEGMAFIA’s usual cadre of glitchy bass and drum effects, “Jesus Forgive Me” is the rare piece of music that feels endlessly complex and affectionate at the same time. I feel the same about this song as I did five hundred listens earlier, when it was released in August: the intensity we receive from the industrial influence and the artist’s inclination toward unguarded displays of emotion is inseparable from the abiding warmth of the pop hooks and timbres. There has been plenty of good pop music this year, but this is something else, a song vibrating with its own negative capability, its ability to hold two contrary strategies in total harmony without reducing one to the other.

Writing and producing everything himself, JPEGMAFIA returns to these noisy yet soulful bona fides continually without allowing his habits to generate the uncanny, plastic sort of sameyness of, say, Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR. Midway through “Kenan Vs. Kel,” just as perfect as the track it follows, he quickly replaces plinking keys and neo-soul crooning--highly pleasurable in themselves--with guitar drones and crackling half-time drums, yet another structural coup that allows him to have his subversion of expectations and his shocks of aural pleasure both in equal measure. And don’t get me started on the thrilling moment toward the end of the also-perfect third track, which is yes called “Beta Male Strategies,” where yet more abrasive guitars and digital fuzz, working towards a seeming climax, are simultaneously undermined and made sonically profound by the reintroduction of the ethereal and wordless opening vocal sample.

This guy has such a sure hand with sounds and the structures they fit into that he seems content, nay driven, to throw himself a series of intractable conceptual challenges, all of which he overcomes with panache. How to deal with the issue of one's self-presentation in a song whose lyrics go a little something like, “These bullets coming at you / Take these bullets from me, that’s my grimy waifu”? Try, perhaps, couching the sentiment, or whatever it is, in airy guitars and lightly skittering drums that lean into the odd sort of romance with Internet culture into which performer and audience--well, most of it--together have prima facie been drafted. What about a cover of “No Scrubs”? Could that possibly work? Well, sure: how about giving it the same unshapely cast as the rest of the album and truncating the source material until it’s like a palimpsest or a distant memory?

It’s so easy to become giddy over JPEGMAFIA’s mastery with the building blocks of tension and release that one can accidentally handwave their way through the knottier issue of his perspective on the world, the things he has to say about it--the harrowing dark cloud of insults and provocations that paints a considerably darker picture than do his resplendent melodies. From constantly calling out his white fans for unwitting fetishism and ignorance to lamenting the havoc Twitter has wreaked on our collective spirit, Peggy’s corrosive words to a fan of today's mainstream hip-hop may appear one-note or paranoid or spasmodic. Maybe unbearably postmodern. Maybe immature. Yet JPEGMAFIA’s empty-eyed focus on a single emotional valence does not diminish the manifold pleasures this album has to offer. In fact, the contrast inherent in the garden of sonic delights housing this intransigent personality makes All My Heroes sort of like a great existentialist novel, drawing its reserves of energy from the brisk movement of its hero through a world whose values mean nothing to him. So far beyond the clunky battle-rap phrasing of Black Ben Carson that the effect ultimately becomes massively appealing, JPEGMAFIA proves himself able to preside deity-like over the tone of his songs, guiding them through the darkness with uncompromising passion.

JPEGMAFIA is the kind of artist--brash, unapologetic, sort of embarrassing sometimes--with whom a lot of listeners are going to have problems, some of them perhaps insurmountable. Yet what separates JPEGMAFIA from fellow provocateurs and flawed human beings who can’t cobble together an album like this is that he as an artist he always has answers for those problems, ear-catching musical virtues that serve to explain or modify or indeed make up for the caveats of his artistic personality. Even after Veteran, I wouldn’t have given anyone grief for deciding that the trade-off was still not worth it, that his sense of pleasure was too perverted or inaccessible for his spiky persona to register as necessary counterpoint. But when it comes to All My Heroes I hardly feel willing to brook dissent: as with Madvillainy or Beauty and the Beat, the endorphin rush catalyzed by the sounds here is so great for me that I can’t imagine I, we, you won’t be listening years and years later, always seeking transcendence, always getting it. Any which way I look at it, I see in its 45 minutes all the signs of a true classic, an album whose daring attitude and commitment to odd sonic luxuries future emissaries of the great tradition of experimental hip-hop music should only hope to emulate.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2019


17479 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Feeling actually good about this one

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2019


17479 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Few things to edit tho

luci
September 15th 2019


11860 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fire album fire review

never heard a hip-hop album more perfectly suited to music nerds who live online

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2019


19067 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

color me interested

Digging: Lightning Bolt - Sonic Citadel

artiswar
September 15th 2019


9481 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bruh... BRUH

Lord(e)Po)))ts
September 15th 2019


46013 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I did prefer this to veteran afterall but that album was alright too

Digging: ((( O ))) - ((( 1 )))

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2019


17479 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

“BBW” is like a way better “crimes pays”

Mr. Pain
September 15th 2019


17488 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is way better than veteran

WatchItExplode
September 15th 2019


7147 Comments


Whaaaaaa

McTime50
September 15th 2019


910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i feel bad for playing into the rap for white, music nerds that do nothing but shitpost online all day stereotype



but here i am

gotsthedewsdood
September 15th 2019


734 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Enjoying this so much more than Veteran.

Taxt
September 15th 2019


1358 Comments


Great review

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2019


17479 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks so much. OK I think I'm done editing it. I forget what uised to happen when quotation marks turned to question marks or whatever it was but i'm so glad that's done phew

McTime50
September 15th 2019


910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

way to clean up that summary

RyanW
September 15th 2019


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This album is the first one that I felt like has lived up sonically to the ideas that Peggy has always had. This is honestly super brilliant and fascinating.

Gyromania
September 15th 2019


28593 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

oh shit. i should hear this

Pheromone
September 15th 2019


7325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Aoty probably

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mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2019


977 Comments


good review but why do you have to say "nay"

artiswar
September 15th 2019


9481 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

fantastic review! album makes a perfect yang to Veteran's yin

Chambered79
September 15th 2019


422 Comments


Cuz he's a horse



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