JPEGMAFIA at Thalia Hall

Yejun Kim

 

Peggy, aka buttermilk Jesus, aka left-wing Hades, aka JPEGMAFIA (all caps, no spaces!) is a rapper, singer, and producer from Brooklyn, New York. He’s quirky, ragged, and self-defined, but his music has undeniably grown to form a critical sector of modern experimental hip-hop. His skills and projects as an artist have evolved over time, from noisy and relentlessly dissonant old EPs to the glitchy punky 2018 album Veteran that put him on the map, and then to 2019’s All My Heroes Are Cornballs that explored slower wailing melodies and flooding synths. With hard-hitting beats, ferocious bars, and an entrancing stage presence, JPEGMAFIA continues to revolutionize the rap game, and he knows it.

 

JPEGMAFIA’s most recent album release, October’s LP!, is the star of his 2021 tour with a sold out Thalia Hall show in Chicago. This album seems like a tightly confident stylistic culmination of his past releases. Tracks range from unpredictably harsh beats (“REBOUND!”) to twinkling synths (“TRUST!”) and to yet another Y2K hit modulation (“THOT’S PRAYER!” from Britney Spears’ one and only “…Baby One More Time).” 

 

Coming out onto stage in a hooded oversized trench coat, JPEGMAFIA rapidly loses layers as he launches into opening with an older track “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot.” His face twists around the microphone as he yells, grunts, and sings his autotuned heart out: “I can’t feel my face, oh god / SMH, no ASMR.” The physical way he moves is equally unrestrained. He sprints back and forth across the stage making sure every eye is following his location. He stands triumphantly in front of the crowd barrier, brushes some adoring fans’ hands and then crumples onto the floor. He travels all the way into the depths of the crowd, and then to the back of the stage to pick the next song’s backing track on his laptop, all while seamlessly rapping and singing. 

 

The crowd energy refuses to be outdone by JPEGMAFIA; the mosh pits are constant and the audience’s rapping keeps up with his. From starting thunderous chants of “Fuck you Peggy” or “Fuck Morrissey” to opening an aisle down the venue and running in, JPEGMAFIA effortlessly melds with the crowd and feels like his own biggest fan. The setlist continues to a bulk of songs off of LP!, as well as some Peggy classics like his top track on Spotify “1539 N. Calvert” and his iconic hollow, wispy, acoustic-ish cover of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. 

 

Closing out with some older hits, JPEGMAFIA is shining with sweat, but still hopping around the stage to the background noise of the crowd’s cheers. His shows have a nearly tangible energy as the audience’s frenziness and his power as a performer build off of each other. As a creator, JPEGMAFIA continues to push musical boundaries while being able to evolve his production, versatility, and personal style. He’s passionate, edgy, sassy, undeniably talented, and his art will always reflect that.