Friday 23 March 2018

Review of 'Veteran' by JPEGMAFIA

Experimental hip hop finds its sense of humour thanks to Baltimore rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA.

The beats on this album are truly off-the-wall. Moody opener ‘1539 N. Calvert’ and following noisy banger ‘Real Nega’ show signs of experimentalism from the off, but these tracks are tame compared to the wild and mutated beats that follow. Some were a challenge even to my hardened eardrums, including the abstract glitched-out percussion of ‘Rock n Roll Is Dead’ and the slowed-down moaning on ‘Rainbow Six’ which sounds like Tina from Bob’s Burgers on backing vocals. In fact, I haven’t heard beats this excitingly challenging since I first discovered Death Grips and Clipping.

That isn’t to say JPEGMAFIA sounds anything like Death Grips or Clipping. His beats for one are more rugged and loose. Not only that, but his lyrics have an incredible sense of humour. Whilst MC Ride’s lyrics can border on comically outrageous, the focus is more on creating a sensation of madness and paranoia. Meanwhile Daveed Diggs of Clipping specialises in gritty suspenseful storytelling.

Both artists take themselves seriously, whilst JPEGMAFIA doesn’t. Veteran is a South-Park-style attack on everyone including himself. ‘I need all my bitches the same colour as Drake’ is the opening line of this album which is an insult to himself, women, dark-skinned people and Drake. There’s a track with the fantastic title ‘I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies’, which turns out to be a attack on right-wingers, but JPEGMAFIA equally takes a chance to bash liberals with ‘Libtard Anthem’. Its anarchistic and punkish – except not punkish in the traditional sense given that even Johnny Rotten gets dissed.

There’s a lack of focus to the album that’s frustrating at points. Certain songs feel undeveloped, although you have to wonder how the album would feel were these songs fleshed out. Would it lose it’s exciting rawness? At other points it’s simply too abstract for my tastes. Nonetheless it’s a captivating listen that’s taking hip hop in a new direction.