JPEGMAFIA is often praised for his ability to create music that seamlessly joins an array of emotions, sounds, and subject matter in a way that many haven’t heard up to this point. Though his approach might be new to some listeners, the LA-based rapper and producer’s journeys through life, in many ways, predestined him for this kind of musical versatility. In his early years, Peggy was raised in Brooklyn, New York by Jamaican parents. Then, as a preteen, he moved to rural Alabama, a place where he’d have to face a type of racism that was unrelenting in comparison to his experiences on the East Coast. Those early, contentious encounters led a young JPEG to gravitate towards early Ice Cube records, which spoke directly to what he was dealing with at the time. Cube’s clever, intellectual, and militant approach led Peggy to making his own music in his early high school years, joining the LA rapper’s style with the flamboyance of artists like Cam’Ron back home in NYC.
After graduating high school, JPEG enlisted in the military, deploying to various corners of the world where he’d pick up a little bit of influence from each locale. None would prove to be more crucial than his move to Baltimore in 2014. A few months after he arrived, the city erupted in a fiery uprising in response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore City Police. The city’s passion and absence of fear when standing up to local law enforcement had a profound effect on Peggy, who’d only witnessed scenes like those while on active duty outside of The States. It led him to crafting
two projects that helped him catch the eyes of people across the country and the internet. 2015’s Darkskin Manson , eerie in sound and content, was his first project as JPEGMAFIA and a direct response to what he saw happening on Baltimore streets between citizens and police. Songs like “Mask on the Masters” and “Cops are the Target” featured haunting vocals that channeled his anger and mind-twisting production that only bolstered those sentiments. That project’s follow up, 2016’s Black Ben Carson , featured even wackier production and satire, poking fun at people like Ben Carson and Stacey Dash, who, at the time, were making questionable political statements that felt detrimental to black progress.
After his time in Baltimore, JPEG relocated to Los Angeles where he released his breakthrough album, Veteran , at the top of 2018. In comparison to his first two projects, which were conceptual pieces, Veteran essentially served as Peggy’s autobiographical introduction to the world. “The name is a double meaning Veteran: meaning I’ve been making music for a long time. Since I was 14. And the literal meaning. I served in US military,” he said of the project. “I had this album name in my head for so many years. Releasing it into the world feels like I just put my kids up for adoption.” The album is JPEG’s most
versatile showing to date. “1539 N. Calvert” is a beautifully delicate tribute to a shut down warehouse in Baltimore where he used to create. “Thug Tears” and its multiple beat switches is a testament to his creative production, as the song touches on the pressures of being a millenial. “Baby I’m Bleeding,” is
dark in lyrical content, but is contrasted by joyous backdrop and lighthearted tone of “DD Form 214”. Veteran established JPEGMAFIA as one of the more exciting artists that rap has to offer, due to his ability to make political commentary and the concerns of American millennials engaging, humorous, and
informative all at once.