JPEGMAFIA Is The Soundtrack To The American Revolution
Channeling Truth Through Musical Aspirations
Apparently the Chicago traffic was giving JPEG a little bit of trouble before arriving to a filling House Of Vans warehouse. No need for alarm, JPEGMAFIA is a one man militia, strapped with his trusty midi plugin and laptop. The staff was pleasantly surprised to find out JPEG’s set was a quick one-two punch when he got set up with the sound engineer for the night. All JPEG needs are the bare essentials to melt a crowd of avid moshers and that night he commanded a riot from the stage.
The music is a direct reflection of JPEG’s stage presence: it’s loud, in your face, and shows no signs of winding down. Similar to hardcore rap progressives like Rage Against The Machine, JPEGMAFIA aggressive style of expression comes with a deeper purpose than just creating mosh pits. His music is like an act of civil disobedience, one filtered through pro-black mantras targeting society, the government, and all their purveyings of systemic racism. Akin to Public Enemy, JPEG’s conscious songs and gritty deliveries come with the intent to open listeners’ eyes to what's really going on in the world. But when it comes to JPEG’s biggest influences, his message takes after his favorite rapper Ice Cube. “To me Public Enemy was trying to teach and give the people information, whereas I felt Ice Cube was approaching the same political issues from an everyman’s perspective.” In JPEG’s eyes, hip hop once dictated a message of perseverance to the disenfranchised people of America. Nowadays, the ideology has more or less shifted to the plight of fast money and materialism since becoming the face of popular music, an evolution that has required JPEG to alter his dialogue to include not only those who stand and/or fight against oppression, but those who are caught in it and doing their best to survive.
"I’m just taking what they’ve been giving to black people and giving it back to them."
JPEG has always aspired to reach people from different walks of life through his music. Born and raised in New York City for the better part of his life, JPEG then moved to Alabama where he lived until joining the army at 18 years old. During his time in the military he lived in Japan where he coined his name, “JPEGMAFIA”. Returning to the states in 2014, JPEG made his way to Baltimore, Maryland, where he found his artistic footing. After settling down in what became his new home away from home, JPEGMAFIA began releasing his music.
Lacing the music with strong social and political commentary has been a dream of JPEG’s since discovering Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted as a teenager. “The message in the music has always kind of been there. Even at a young age I knew there were blatant racists speaking on platforms as big as Fox News. Even so young, I was able to understand how detrimental that was, especially for people like me.” JPEG’s desire to spread truth was further enforced after joining the military. Aside from making beats in his bunk bed during enemy mortar strikes, the greatest example of the Army’s influence on JPEG’s music, is his most recent album VETERAN.
VETERAN takes on a multitude of tones- sometimes switching up completely in the middle, or towards the end of a song. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say some of the tracks feel like mini mixtapes in and of themselves, such as the fourth track “Dayum”; one second JPEG’s dark, airy vocals are cushioned by what seems to be an airplane taking off in the background, the next they are broken up with strings of percussion.
"It’s funny because they’ve been doing it to us all our lives and they can’t even take it for an album."
JPEG approaches all aspects of his music carefully and strategically, from the atmosphere he creates with his production and engineering to the content of the writing. He spares no wasteful word and, the words he does use, say a lot. As heard on VETERAN’s second track “Real Nega”, JPEGMAFIA let’s us know exactly where he stands- over a mean ass O.D.B. vocal sample at that. “White boys getting mad cause’ of my content. Y'all brave on the web, keep it in the comments. Sock it to a nigga like Mankind and motherfuck that flag nigga we dyin’.”
Even as far back as his first project Communist Slow Jams (2015), JPEG’s been a walking, talking, pro-black satire of American society, never missing the chance to remind white supremacy that he’s alive and kicking. “I’m just taking what they’ve been giving to black people and giving it back to them. It’s funny because they’ve been doing it to us all our lives and they can’t even take it for an album.” Trust and believe the term “hate mail” is no understatement for JPEG in any shape or form: JPEG gets his fair share of death threats. Ultimately, knowing there are other people like himself who take pride in the music, gives JPEG the, “strength to keep doing this… I get so much hate and weird shit in my dms that sometimes I’m just like, ‘why am I doing this?’”
Despite the angry masses of white supremacists on Twitter, in fact, because of the angry masses of white supremacists on Twitter, JPEG will continue to use his platform to educate and speak out against the inequalities of our society. After announcing “THE REVERSE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS TOUR”, expect to see JPEG take his ambitions on an American-European run come August 29th. With new opportunities and music on the way, we expect to see JPEGMAFIA close out 2018 in stride.