JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

JPEGMAFIA's All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a riposte to his viral fame that showcases his as-yet-unheralded talents as a producer

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 13 Sep 2019
  • JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Album title: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Label: EQT Recordings
Release date: 13 Sep

When JPEGMAFIA performed at Primavera Sound earlier this year, it was a fascinating Jekyll and Hyde performance. During songs, he wretched and screamed the words, wading into a sea of slithering, sweating bodies. But in between, he was jarringly professorial, sitting behind his laptop, feet up, scrolling through beats – some new, some familiar – like a university lecturer. On All My Heroes Are Cornballs, that manic performance energy – matched by his often incendiary, very online verses – remains, but it’s about time Peggy got his full due as a top producer.

Listening to All My Heroes Are Cornballs can be like cloaking your entire body in Peggy’s imagination. The beats are visceral, busy, constantly warping, surprising, leaving you short of breath. Opener Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot is a perfect example, leading with terrifying noise – something like crowds fleeing a bomb scare – transitioning into sickly soulful guitar (and one of his most soulful deliveries at that). It would take a microscopic lens to identify what’s going on in some tracks, while others can be plaintive and simple (Grimy Waifu). Many of the beats are fire – one is literally fire (DOTS FREESTYLE REMIX). 

The experience is totally off-kilter. As with all Peggy’s tracks, something sinister lies beneath the surface thematically – PTSD is always rumbling around – but it knocks you dizzyingly when it cuts to a surprisingly affecting hook or a genuinely beautiful chorus (Free the Fail).

JPEGMAFIA has always been prone to introspection, but the virality of his very specific kind of fame has given him fuel for the fire on this record. It’s especially effective when he’s skewering whiteness, from jokey adlibs whiningly asserting 'such a cool chord change', to crowning himself the 'young, black Brian Wilson'. He addresses directly serious rap heads’ aversion to him ('Fuck him, he is not top-tier / And he never spit a rhyme that made me care'), and doubles down on the parts of his lyrics that draw the most criticism with scathing wit: 'I hate all white niggas / I’m prejudiced, but I’ma take you niggas money like a reverend… / Target practice on an Aryan / Redneck tears with a beverage'.

On closer Papi I Missed U, both a kind of thesis statement and a self-parody (something he is delighted to do throughout, playing with expectations and prejudices), Peggy proclaims: 'I don’t spit raps, bitch / I spit rhetoric'. For those not attuned to Peggy’s ability to tap into the zeitgeist, All My Heroes Are Cornballs won’t provide a lyrical turning point. But as a showcase for his skills as a producer, it should win over even the most dyed in the wool critics.

Listen to: All My Heroes Are Cornballs, Free the Fail, Papi I Missed U