By Kwase Lane, Features Editor
[Republic Records; 2020]
Key tracks: “COVERED IN MONEY!”, “BODYGUARD!”, “CUTIE PIE!”
No one would have blamed JPEGMAFIA for having a misstep in 2020 after his track record of fantastic albums. The man is due for a flop at this point, but it seems like Peggy is incapable of slipping up. Over the past few months, Peggy has released a slew of singles back to back, and now, he’s stitched them all into a beautiful Frankenstein’s monster of a project. EP! proves that Peggy is a master of his craft. Who else could add a few flourishes to previously released tracks and have it stand as one of the most coherent, satisfying projects of the year?
“COVERED IN MONEY!” is a mess, and I love it. All at once, the listener’s ears are assaulted with booming chants, raucous percussion and a smattering of snapping noises hiding behind the bass. Peggy leads his audience through this auditory wasteland with his even-tempered delivery. As if that wasn’t enough, at the two-minute mark, the piece mutates with Peggy effortlessly transitioning from rap, singing and back to rap again over a whirring synth. This song is essentially two bangers for the price of none, and the tracks that follow only get better.
On “BODYGUARD!”, Peggy fuses corrupted ’90s pop flavor and off-kilter harmonies to create a ballad that sounds like it came from the pits of the early internet. As evidenced by “Millennium Freestyle,” JPEGMAFIA is no stranger to summoning ghosts from decades past as a muse for his work, but with “BODYGUARD!”, Peggy claims this sound as his own. His inspirations are less referential, and his vocals are so impassioned that bits of humanity can’t help but peek through the thick cloak of autotune he’s donned. The piece evokes an image of some digital simulacrum of a man weeping for a lost love, and if you listen enough times, it just might make your eyes water, too.
While most of these tracks would be at home tucked somewhere in All My Heroes are Cornballs, that goes doubly true for “CUTIE PIE!”. Peggy takes a more minimalist approach to production on this track, rapping over thick bass with a smattering of synths littered throughout. His vocals are deft and controlled, but the lyrics are packed with witty insults toward his contemporaries. His delivery makes his claims feel more substantial. He’s not hating; he’s just stating facts: “You niggas trash still slaving away on Sylenth / Matter of fact, you slaves no matter who niggas sign with.” Peggy is at the top of his game, unbothered, and no one can knock him off his throne.
EP! is better than it has any right to be. Although it does suffer from its formation as a collection of singles rather than a collective album, the project is excellent in its own right. Peggy’s made tiny additions to each piece that slightly mitigate the issue of the songs’ disconnectedness. Even without knowing that these were initially separate projects, their problems playing nice together are an afterthought. Every artist wishes their output could be this remarkable, but not every EP can be EP!.