Album Review: "Veteran", JPEGMAFIA
This is the first album of 2018 that I’ve genuinely cared about. It’s nice to be hit in the face with something this refreshing, that’s actually trying to do something different and forces me to give a shit about what’s going on the whole way through. Typically, when albums stay important to me over time, I continue to remember the exact moment I realized I care. For Veteran, that was walking to the subway last Sunday evening. It reminded me of a few things; new music can still be exciting, there’s always some refreshing sound out there to be discovered, and I haven’t lost this part of myself that’s totally in love with the entire dynamic and thinks about it for hours before I go to bed at night. All I needed was a project like this to get me back into my element.
Peggy’s now 4 projects into his career (two of which are technically mixtapes), and I have to admit that most of his material has slipped by me until now. That’s with the exception of the legendary single I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a song about the dumb fuck type of person who voted for Donald Trump just to say they did it. I decided to try out Black Ben Carson after becoming infatuated with Veteran, and I have to say, that album’s a damn ACHIEVEMENT too, and criminally underrated. It’s similarly abrasive, distorted, and obscure, and I’m glad Peg decided to push it a step further in this new project. I’ve heard comparisons of Veteran to Death Grips or clipping., but I see it as something else entirely. The song structure and lyricism in this album are totally different and it’s hard to classify.
Easily the most noticeable characteristic of the album is its utter darkness and cynicism, which manifests itself in the production and lyrics alike. Jpegmafia’s twisted/sick humor is hard not be sucked in by right off the bat. It’s also tough not to be blown away by some of these production decisions; the vocal samples on Real N and Baby I’m Bleeding are easily some of the strangest, most eccentric additions to any song I’ve heard in a long time. It’s also worth noting that Peggy’s vocals have a certain intensity, and feel totally unfiltered and raw. They sound like they’re yelling at you directly, which is pretty unsettling. His flow switches up a lot throughout the project as well; some songs are angry and passionate, some are strangely mellow and chilling. His vocals even become smooth and hypnotic closer to the end of cuts like DD Form 212 (in which the Bobbi Rush feature was also perfectly placed).
There’s a fair amount of easy standout cuts on the project; the insane, aggressive percussion on Real N with the psychotic vocal sample that fades into this serene, smooth outro makes it easily fit the bill. Rock n Roll is Dead also has these echoing, glitchy short samples chopped together, and one of those songs with significant contrast between the stripped-back vocals and heavy effects on the beat. Panic Emoji’s continuous line of glossy, watery synths are chilling and hypnotic. Baby I’m Bleeding has some of the most raw, passionate rapping of the whole record, where Peggy’s pretty much just going OFF; the bizarre sample helps it stand out as one of the record’s most impressive moments. Thug Tears’ twisted intro fades into a crazy, loosely connected and experimental trip.
It’s true that a decent chunk of Veteran kind of reads like a set of interludes, as a lot of these cuts stand at only a minute or two. Nevertheless, for the most part, most bring something totally new to the album that deserves to be there. The cluttered, chaotic production on DJ Snitch Bitch with its quick rapping is a good example; another is the moody guitars and (what seems like) very hushed sampling of background noise. Still, a few shorter tracks would’ve benefited from further development or just being left out entirely. As chilling and somber as Dayum is, it doesn’t add much to the album; neither does Williamsburg, which seems redundant and pretty boring compared to a lot of the other cuts.
One of the things that hooked me into the lyrics of this album (which touch on so many topics; Peggy goes from political to cutthroat to satirical and somehow still makes the album feel conceptually cohesive) was these repeated mentions of the drive it takes to get much of anywhere as an artist. It takes a certain mix of intense desire, relentlessness, and neverending love for your craft to make it work. Some of these breeds of people get there. But artists who don’t care enough to put the work in or expect to blow up overnight are going to get lost in this sea of similar people fairly quickly. Moreover, I have to say, I love the recurring theme on this record of calling out music critics for their bullshit. Always keeping us on our toes. “Say they wanna be a critic, but they can’t take no criticism”. Oooooohghhhhgjhk shit. “Fuck a blog, fuck a fan, hope my record get panned”, yess, call us out. I mean, among bars that stand out on the record, sure, you can’t forget the classics, “I need a bitch with long hair like Myke C-Town” or “Promise i’ll never go blonde like Kanye”, but honestly, where he called out Pitchfork spoke to my emotions more than anything. “Pitchfork told me to never be abusive unless I’m moving units” is the most real lyric I’ve heard in a while.
It’s pretty easy to love the sarcastic side to Peggy’s lyrics as well; cuts like Libtard Anthem are fucking hilarious and have this self-aware magic to them that I wish more people had. Word on the street we’re all libtards here in this art school I go to in Brooklyn. I also love the irony of the bright, cheerful production in I Can’t Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies; what a song title. Also can’t not mention My Thoughts on Neogaf Dying, whose repeated “I don’t care” is as pleasingly cynical as it is amusing.
I really don’t have much to complain about with this project. It scratched an itch for me that’s been lingering for the past month and pretty much does everything it set out to do. This is sick humor and darkness approached from a wide variety of angles; I haven’t seen this level of consistency and amount of fresh ideas from a new release in a long time. Peggy: you’re the shit, thank you for saving my discouraged ass and thank you for being cool to me on twitter before I even threw this review out.