JPEGMAFIA: Veteran

The Bell Foundry, which stood on 1539 N. Calvert, was condemned by Baltimore City in 2016. It was considered “a tragedy waiting to happen.” For many in the city, it felt more like the forces of gentrification consuming another victim. Another filthy building condemned and its filthy inhabitants scattered; scrub Baltimore clean until it shines!

“1539 N. Calvert,” the lead track to JPEGMAFIA’s excellent Veteran, hocks and heaves a thick, bloody loogie onto such a dream of the city he called home. The glitchy stocotto beat, the somber keyboard riff, and the abrasive lyrics make for a perfect eulogy to a hub that helped fostered a vibrant, hardscrabble D.I.Y. music and arts scene for years.

The D.I.Y spirit lives in on Peggy. On his latest offering, it sounds like hip-hop deconstructed, stripped of varnish, and drunkenly reassembled. In lieu of a manual is Peggy’s vision, which feels fully realized in large part because he produces, raps, and mixes each track.

In Peggy’s reconstruction of hip-hop, the twisting, clever lyricism is traded for raw truths. Comparing his assault rifle to Lena Dunham and calling Morrissey “a timid white *bleep*” never fails to elicit a guffaw, hardly because of his wittiness but his sheer brutality.

Lyrics like these won’t soon inspire youtubers to upload videos unpacking their density, but their execution is delivered with the power and lethality of a motherfucking meat cleaver. His voice sounds electrified with Tuco Salamanca levels of crazed-rage while slinging shit at the alt-right or triggered white boys. He cuts slow too. Genuine resignation drips off his voice in “Panic Emoji” and “My Thoughts on the Neogaf Dying” (spoiler: he doesn’t care).

The production and mixing, however, is what feels like the true revelation. In the more exciting songs, it’s unnerving. Electrical snaps bite at your ears at the start of “Thug Tears.” The ever-guttural Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s yodels full-throatedly throughout “Real Nega.” No song is allowed to stagnate either, as if Peggy challenged himself to introduce a new, unique sound every 16 count. Production flourishes like gunshots or WWE vocal samples polka-dot each track. A particular highlight is the rapid-fire bass effect in “1539 N. Calvert” that literally disrupts Peggy and his beat, not to mention the listener.

The noises Peggy employs seem laboriously curated. “In Dayum,” for example, it sounds as if Peggy ripped the audio straight from a VHS Camcorder recording from the bottom of crowded pool. The album is alive with sounds like these darting through both headphones to create a totally immersive experience.

The sum of these parts creates an album surging with raw punk energy. It expansive library of sounds expertly deployed and the vitality and versatility of Peggy’s voice advance noise-hop several steps forward. It is the most exciting release of 2018 from an artist to keep a keen eye on.

Rating: 9.0/10

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