JPEGMafia offers an escape from single-genre monotony on the eclectic All My Heroes Are Cornballs | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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JPEGMafia offers an escape from single-genre monotony on the eclectic All My Heroes Are Cornballs


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On his new third studio album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, Brooklyn-born, Baltimore-based hip-hop artist Barrington Devaughn Hendricks, aka JPEGmafia (Peggy for short), offers an escape from the monotony of music that’s restricted by genre. Hendricks dives headfirst into his attention-deficit-fueled opener, “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot,” which is the album’s most concise answer to the question “What kind of music does JPEGmafia make?” (either despite or because of the fact that it doesn’t stick to any specific sound for long). Its core beat centers a simple, dreamy piano progression that would sound more at home in a smooth R&B ballad than in the song’s spasmodic layering of rattling 808s, claps, vocal harmonies, percussion, and occasional television static. Hendricks’s uncanny ability to weave in and out of contrasting vocal styles elevates the two-and-a-half-minute intro into an embodiment of his artistry; he switches from calmly rapping “Feels like I’m shootin’ / I’m shifting time / Dressed in your grandmama’s hand-me-downs” to shouting “Sucka, I’m prominent, I was anonymous / I been in front of you every time” with the aggression of a punk-rock front man. The eclectic nature of Hendricks’s music is emblematic of a life that’s equally kaleidoscopic: after spending much of his adolescence in Alabama, he joined the air force, putting in a tour of duty in Iraq and spending time stationed in Germany, Japan, and other locales. He also earned a master’s degree in journalism. As he told the Fader, “I just wanted to write about music if I’m not going to make it.” Hendricks’s visual presentation is as vital as his music, and not just because his thrift-store couture makes his comedic brag about “your grandmama’s hand-me-downs” double as a plausible claim. Onstage he carries the same frenetic energy he flexes on wax, often busting out impromptu freestyles, stage dives, and erratic dance moves. He’s brought that spirit to Chicago several times—so far this year he’s played at Pitchfork Midwinter and the Pitchfork Music Festival, where he acted as his own DJ—but this Bottom Lounge show is his first headlining set in the city.   v

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