All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Label: EQT Recordings
Top Tracks: Beta Male Strategies; PTSD; Grimy Waifu; Free The Frail
For Fans Of: Injury Reserve; Slauson Malone; Lil Ugly Mane
Speaking about the title of this new effort, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, JPEGMAFIA reflects on the common internet age realisation that people we think of as our role models are humans capable of human-level disappointment. Significantly, he stresses the fact that this goes both ways - he feels he is bound to be letting down someone somewhere at any given point in time. This album is somewhat of a response to that idea, through a now well-established PEGGY lens of aggression mixed with nihilism. PEGGY is all too aware that the punch-in-the-face, noisey, challenging style that won him so much critical acclaim after last year’s Veteran is what fans have come to expect. He satirically acknowledges the irony of listenability therefore being a sign of his music coming short in a series of promotional videos, where he plays tracks from his album to contemporaries he respects (including James Blake, Slowthai and Jeff Tweedy). Despite their praise of his work, he labels the videos as proof of their disappointment, the only exception being Denzel Curry who is said to be “satisfied” in the video title despite trashing the album and calling it “Yeezus with hobos”.
Tracks ‘Free the Frail’ and ‘Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind’ have the clearest fame-reflective themes on the albums. The former is an uncharacteristically clean and vulnerable moment where PEGGY attempts to talk through his strange and turbulent emotional response to actually “feeling employed”. The instrumental includes a low, lazy, tide of a bass and pecking synth-drum claps which alternate with a more organic drum refrain. The latter sees PEGGY rap over a drilling static that contrasts soft keys that come in for a chorus where he sings about a “vicious cycle” where you go from “Bobby” (presumably Shmurda - a felon yet underground legend) to “Michael” (presumably Jackson - an icon with a soiled name).
The album’s lyrical content goes beyond just a response to fame though. PEGGY uses his new vantage point to further confront and interrogate archetypes in the weird modern cesspool of shallow thots and rappers, music industry soul-suckers, brazen bigots and internet-dwelling-pseudo-liberal closet-racists and quasi-incels. Through this all, PEGGY grapples with his own identity - his proximity with all these groups seems to make him paranoid of losing the ability to self-define. In particular, his experiences with the aforementioned bigots and internet-dwellers - two sides to the “cracker” coin - seem to have made him hyper-insecure of his large white fan-base who genuinely admire his work and whose support he is ultimately grateful for. His obsession with shooting “crackers” down therefore seems to be an overcompensation.
‘Grimy Wifu’, a beautifully composed track that transitions immaculately from the previous, sees PEGGY’s creepy infatuation with confrontation manifest as romantic feelings for his gun. A mellow acoustic guitar leads the track but a viciously vibrating bass that lies dormant just beneath and repeated glitching embellishments give the impression of being in the core of a tornado. ‘PTSD’ which follows on from this continues this confrontational theme but this time with the attention focused on the person PEGGY’s bullets are aimed at. The instrumental is beautiful once again but is more depressive, precariously held just above threatening. It also features one of the hardest verses on the album, with the following brilliant bars: “Your deal look like Brexit / biting crackers and wonder why you anorexic”.
‘Beta Male Strategies’ earlier in the tracklist is one of the most sonically impressive moments of the album, starting with a gorgeous, hypnotic sample that sounds like an other-worldly paradise. PEGGY ingeniously plays with the mixing so that, when the deathly beat switch suddenly comes in and he begins to rap over it, certain bars spring right against your ear drums - “DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE”, “GLOCK WITH THE DICK”. The title track, with its deceptively harmonious glitching synth winks that sound stellar over a bass that teasingly comes and goes, and the opening track, ‘Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot’, with its dreamy, watery synths neatly spliced with chaotic screaming vocal scrambles, are similarly stunning.
Being a highly experimental album that thematically behaves more like an abstract mosaic than a portrait, there are moments that completely lose me (like ‘PRONE!’, which sounds like being left on a highway with no phone, or ‘DOTS FREESTYLE REMIX’, which sounds like a fever dream on a bloated stomach). Overall though, the ratio of impressive and bemusing is just right.