Review: JPEGMAFIA continues his cutting-edge rap quest on “All My Heroes Are Cornballs”


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jpegmafia review

Trevor Babcock

Rapper and producer JPEGMAFIA has been hard to miss since the release of 2018 album “Veteran.” He caught the eyes of the hip-hop community finding himself featured on numerous projects and collaborations, notably including Denzel Curry, Flume and Kenny Beats. 

While “Veteran” is a challenging and unpredictable hip-hop record unlike any other, JPEGMAFIA proved his skillset flourishes in any brand of hip-hop he applies himself to, whether it’s aggressive and in your face delivery on straightforward beats or melodic, R&B inspired singing while also poking fun at mainstream hip-hop trends. This makes JPEGMAFIA hard to summarize, and beyond features to his own projects with his own production, makes the task more difficult. 

Given the sonic results of “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” JPEGMAFIA’s social media promotion of the album constantly referring to it as an inevitable disappointment, and even featuring his rap peers in a video pretending to bash the album, makes sense in hindsight. 

“All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” is simultaneously a departure from his previous record “Veteran,” while also existing within JPEGMAFIA’s wheelhouse. Fans who only know JPEGMAFIA from his features or most popular tracks from “Veteran” may understandably not pick up on the vibe JPEGMAFIA creates on this new album. 

While still aggressive and combative, the tone of “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” is shifted towards melodic, depressive and moody. While singing and lengthy instrumental sections aren’t anything new for JPEGMAFIA, these tools are utilized more frequently on this project. His production is less challenging and this time often pretty, luscious and melancholic. Instrumentals on several carry a heavy vaporwave influence. The lyrical narrative contains JPEGMAFIA trademarks like political jabs and internet humor, but also centers around his new existence in the hip-hop mainstream.

Opening track and lead single, “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot,” is a perfect introduction to the varied directions JPEGMAFIA goes for on “All My Heroes Are Cornballs.” Distant keys provide the moody backdrop, while JPEGMAFIA transitions between laid-back and aggressive delivery, which is then accompanied by an industrial bass. In the chorus he delivers anxious autoned singing, climaxing in the anthemic, “You better count your blessings for real.” The song uses religious imagery to speak on a crossroads of choosing a mainstream approach or staying experimental and original. The sound of the song itself feels like it’s at a crossroads, with shifts between industrial and floaty production.

Themes of fame and relationships with an audience carry on throughout much of the album, as well as a feeling of contradiction in the production and lyrics. “Free the Frail,” an incredibly catchy and personable track is about JPEGMAFIA’s public image, and it being beholden to listeners. While not a singular track tackles this subject in full, the album is the sum of its parts. The tracks flow in and out themes and narratives, with memorable one liners and references at every turn. The lyrical content feels very 2019, in anti alt-right political jabs (“PRONE!”) and living in a social media age (“Beta Male Strategies”). Then there’s “Grimy Waifu,” a song where JPEGMAFIA pens a love letter to his gun, his “grimy waifu.”

While more stand out tracks are present on “Veteran,” “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” takes an enjoyable moody and narrative direction creating a greater whole. 

JPEGMAFIA continues to tackle subject matter with a fresh and unique perspective not found anywhere else in hip-hop and does so through an evolving one-of-a-kind sound. The result of “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” is a scattered but complex equation, and deeply original look inside JPEGMAFIA’s perspective of the world and current stage in life.