Leftist rap personality JPEGMAFIA is set to touch down at Binghamton University this Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Undergrounds, courtesy of Binghamton Underground Music Presents (BUMP). Check out this playlist to familiarize yourself with the radical politics and internet-troll tendencies sweeping rap and indie in 2018.
“1539 N. Calvert” — JPEGMAFIA
The album opener on JPEGMAFIA’s 2018 breakthrough album, “Veteran,” is an excellent showcase for JPEGMAFIA’s unique abilities in rap. JPEGMAFIA blends his glitchy and distorted hip-hop production with an intuitive sense for melody and rap flows, making the track sound like a dystopian take on modern SoundCloud rap. JPEGMAFIA sounds like he’s borrowed notes from artists like Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert, while also being unafraid to make his instrumentals more experimental and his lyrics more political. The song is also a dedication to Baltimore’s former venue and recording studio, The Bell Foundry, a nod to the Baltimore scene that helped launch JPEGMAFIA into underground rap notoriety. The track features a crass lyric referencing conservative personality Kellyanne Conway, demonstrative of JPEGMAFIA’s reputation as one of the biggest trolls in rap.
“VENGEANCE” — Denzel Curry ft. JPEGMAFIA and Zillakami
The standout track from Denzel Curry’s 2018 release “TA13OO” saw the underground rap veteran including these two featured artists for an intense exercise in lyrical acrobatics. The chemistry is natural between the trio as they trade verses almost seamlessly as the song progresses. JPEGMAFIA takes sly shots at mainstream rappers Drake and 6ix9ine, while Curry flexes that he’s the kind of rapper that “Freddy [Krueger] wouldn’t sleep on.” The end result is a song that will be in heavy rotation in any rap fan’s workout playlist.
“Ain’t It Funny” — Danny Brown
In light of JPEGMAFIA recently teasing a collaboration with Danny Brown on social media, it only feels appropriate to include a track from one of rap’s most eccentric personalities of the 2010s. The industrial synthesizers sound like Trent Reznor-influenced production, as Brown tackles an abrasive instrumental that most rappers wouldn’t feel capable of spinning. However, Brown has a knack for the unorthodox, as his rap flow brings a natural structure to the chaotic instrumental. The Jonah Hill-produced music video uses the song to highlight Brown’s dynamic with drug use and his perception in the mainstream by injecting Brown into a “Full House”-esque sitcom setting. “Ain’t It Funny” is a disturbing — but high energy — song detailing the way drug use and stardom feed off of one another.
“URL IRL” — Cities Aviv
Cities Aviv is a Memphis-based rapper and former frontman of the hardcore punk band Copwatch, showing his radical stripe and making him a natural colleague to JPEGMAFIA. “URL IRL” is a reference to internet terminology (URL being a website link, and IRL being an online acronym for “in real life”) that sets the tone for the glitchy instrumental that features chopped vocal samples. The track bears some similarities to the “Veteran” standout track, “Baby I’m Bleeding,” which also uses a chopped vocal sample to create its unconventional rhythmic pocket. JPEGMAFIA and Cities Aviv represent a pioneering edge in hip-hop experimentation. Paired with an uncompromising leftist attitude, this sonic direction of the genre shows great promise for the future of underground hip-hop.
“JJ” — Priests
Take some time away from the ingenuity of JPEGMAFIA to appreciate the BUMP show opener, Priests. Priests is a D.C.-based punk band with a strong emphasis on the DIY aesthetics and community safe spaces. On inauguration day last year, the group played an event titled “NO: A Night of Anti-Fascist Sound Resistance in the Capital of the USA.” As a strong opponent of the “alt-right,” Priests is an evident pairing to JPEGMAFIA. “JJ” is a choice cut from the group’s 2017 release, “Nothing Feels Natural,” and sees lead singer Katie Alice Greer crooning over a rolling bass line and angular guitars. Greer’s impressive vocal range harbors similarities to riot grrrl pioneer and Sleater-Kinney vocalist Corin Tucker, highlighting a strong point of reference both ideologically and sonically for the group. “JJ” is the kind of track that could spark excitement in any audience, even among first-time listeners.