Baltimore beatsmith and wordsmith JPEGMAFIA has kept his fanbase well-fed during a dismal 2020, dropping a series of single tracks throughout the year that has culminated into a 9-track EP. Boringly titled EP!, the music covers a wide range of experiments and sonic palettes, reflecting much more creativity than the title would suggest. It carries the loose vibes of a short, informal project, but even when Peggy isn’t producing his magnum opus, his penchant for clever lines, cohesive sounds and ear-grabbing samples shines through.
There isn’t an abundance of frenetic flows or unhinged vocal performances on the EP, which is something fans have come to expect on every Peggy album so far and was especially present on Veteran.
The songs generally have a relaxed, subdued energy to them, with delicate samples and ethereal synth leads peppering the background. Even still, Peggy finds a way to concoct a series of atmospheres that pull something out of the listener and remains a fun entertainer on the microphone.
The opening track “Bald!” hilariously references Ray Allen, a Hall of Fame NBA player who was notoriously bald for most of his career, in the hook and continues to bring that mixture of self-deprecation and cockiness that Peggy is known for. The EP later throws in a remix of the track featuring Denzel Curry, which can never go wrong.
If Peggy lacks a strong subject or structure on a song, like “Super Tuesday!” he reliably makes up for it with a bravado that leaves the listener chuckling at the audacious nature of his lyrics. Every bar on this song is more comically scathing than the last:
“Pop filter, bump stockin’, one shot turn Steve Bannon into Steve Hawking'' (recycled from the track “Prone!” off his last album) / “R. Kelly, gigolo, I’m dough pilin’, but I don’t f--- with kids; I ain’t Woody Allen / “Step out of line and show these Plaxicos what the Ruger do.”
Peggy enjoys a low enough profile that his disses don’t usually stir any media-fueled drama (despite his outspoken animus for music journalists) and takes advantage to write some of the funniest commentary and personal jabs in hip-hop today. He combines the mirthful demeanor of Ugly God and the sneering wit of, respectfully, Hopsin, along with a dash of emotional heft to invent a totally unique personality in his music.
“Covered in Money!” is a primal-sounding beat with lots of organic percussion, plucked strings and sampled shouts, soaked in distortion. It flows into a dreamlike, almost psych pop-esque outro a la Tame Impala with Peggy’s autotuned crooning laid on top. His knack for striking a catchy melody during his sung verses have improved tremendously since his earliest work and show up with regularity on this EP.
“Bodyguard!” is a spacey, sung piano ballad that is seductive and gripping in a weird way. It’s one of the songs that could have been developed more in terms of writing and become a lead single for one of Peggy’s studio albums.
“Cutie Pie!” is a charismatic trunk knocker that doesn’t oversell its performance, and Peggy brings relentlessly sticky flows and his brand of sardonic humor to the track that makes it irresistible.
“Rough 7” featuring Tommy Genesis hashes an eerie, repeated vocal sample in the instrumental that is constantly being pitch-shifted, giving a very warped feeling to the atmosphere of the track. Tommy’s performance kills, as she brings a sensual swagger to the song, which balances out nicely with Peggy’s fiery delivery coming after.
All in all, EP! is merely a collection of individual tracks that were released periodically throughout the year, all within a brief runtime of 26 minutes. Therefore, it doesn’t elicit the overwhelming rush of excitement that a studio album would.
As anticlimactic in nature as this project is, it’s actually pretty good and signifies that more creative ideas and rewarding musical experiments are in store for JPEGMAFIA fans in 2021 and beyond.