JPEGMAFIA is often praised for his ability to create music that seamlessly joins an array of emotions, sounds, and subject matter in a way that many haven’t heard up to this point. Though his approach might be new to some listeners, the LA-based rapper and producer’s journey through life, in many ways, predestined him for this kind of musical versatility. In his early years, JPEGMAFIA was raised in Brooklyn, New York by Jamaican parents. Then, as a preteen, he moved to rural Alabama, a place where he’d have to face a type of racism that was unrelenting in comparison to his experiences on the East Coast. Those early, contentious encounters led a young JPEGMAFIA to gravitate towards early Ice Cube records, which spoke directly to what he was dealing with at the time. Cube’s clever, intellectual, and militant approach led JPEGMAFIA to making his own music in his early high school years, joining the LA rapper’s style with the flamboyance of artists like Cam’Ron back home in NYC.
It was in Los Angeles that JPEGMAFIA released his breakthrough album, Veteran, at the top of 2018. In comparison to his first two projects, which were conceptual pieces, Veteran essentially served as JPEGMAFIA’s autobiographical introduction to the world and his most versatile display of his skillset up to that point. The album established JPEGMAFIA as one of the more exciting artists that rap has to offer, due to his ability to make political commentary and the concerns of American millennials engaging, humorous, and informative all at once. The album changed his life. In the year following Veteran, he became a mainstay in American media, the festival circuit, and soon would begin receiving praise and admiration from musical titans such as Rick Rubin and James Blake, among others.
Now, after one of the more impressive introductory runs for a new artist in recent memory, JPEGMAFIA is mastering his ability to strip the music down to a point of being more transparent, all while maintaining what made people fall in love with him in the first place. That’s where his new album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, comes in. The 18-track project follows in the footsteps of his earlier work, in that, as a listener, you step into uncharted territory whenever you press play on any of JPEGMAFIA’s songs.
“When I went into this I had a completely blank head. I didn’t want to think about anything,” JPEGMAFIA says of All My Heroes Are Cornballs. “I didn’t wanna go into it with no preconceived anything. I just knew I wanted to make something in a space and time. When you just leaving it all out there, it kinda happens that way.” That creative approach may explain why the album has more naturally personal moments than last year’s Veteran, but even with that addition, in true JPEGMAFIA fashion, it mostly shows up in spurts. “Prone!” spends the majority of its duration being a platform for JPEGMAFIA to let off steam and frustration, but by its end, he slyly fits in interpolations of Jamaican singer Wayne Wonder’s hit “No Letting Go.” Directly after, 61-second cut “Life’s Hard, Here’s a Song About Sorrel” is a short love letter to a drink popular in Caribbean households. Both instances are a subtle nod to his heritage. Moments like these are sprinkled all throughout All My Heroes Are Cornballs a nd they suggests that, while JPEGMAFIA will remain the cerebral off-kilter jack of all trades (take the title track that goes from referencing Drake melodies to name dropping both Anne Hathaway and Ann Coulter), he’s entering a space where it feels necessary to bare more of himself to those who’ve gotten him to this point.
That way of thinking, he says, comes after finally breaking into an industry he’s been targeting for the better half of his life, only to realize that so many of the people he idolized are disappointingly disingenuous. All My Heroes Are Cornballs is, in some part, him grappling with that lightbulb moment, but more importantly, him making sure he doesn’t replicate their deficiencies. “When you put the scope of today — when we know more about people’s intentions — and you put it back on some of these people, you realize that they’re not really who you thought they were in any way, shape, or form,” he says. “This album is my real life realization.”
“One of the most unique rapper-producers operating right now... Producing the soundtrack for the despondent, late-capitalist age that we are all currently trapped in.”The Needle Drop
“Song to song, it’s genuinely exciting to see where JPEGMAFIA might go next, and you never quite know what to expect. JPEGMAFIA’s third album is his most accomplished record yet.”NME
“All My Heroes Are Cornballs is not only angry but also gracious, humble, worried, and self-conscious. In other words, it is human.”Popmatters