Since the release of his album “Veteran” in January, JPEGMAFIA, a one man mafia, has been my favorite rapper. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I seriously will not shut up about him.
I am a borderline stan. I would quote JPEGMAFIA’s lyrics about hating stans, but they are not fit for print. (Hardly any fun ones are.) I’m going into this much detail about my fanaticism to retain journalistic integrity by being upfront about my biases.
Having said this, “Veteran” is a fantastic album with a fantastic opening track, “1539 N. Calvert.” The song is named after the address of The Bell Foundry, a now-closed recording venue in Baltimore, which is where JPEGMAFIA — otherwise known as Peggy — used to live.
Peggy’s songs have a considerable amount of edge to them. He is crass, vulgar and on no one’s side. He takes shots at the alt-right, Morrissey, neo-liberals and did I mention the alt-right? Death threats abound, and if you thought The Game name-dropped, wait until you listen to Peggy, specifically on this song.
“1539 N. Calvert” has Peggy mentioning Drake, 50 Cent, John Lennon, Kellyanne Conway and even Myke C-Town from Dead End Hip Hop, a review YouTube channel. He even mentions the video game series “Metal Gear Solid,” which does not help my borderline obsession.
Accompanying this song is a new video. Boy, oh boy, does it have a video.
The edginess of the song is nicely contrasted by the warm, orange lighting, the earthy tones of Peggy’s clothes and the set’s cavernous black background. Peggy and company are sitting on a couch when he is shoved by a girl next to him as an ad-lib from the intro of the song plays. Then, he gets up and walks.
Slight glitching sounds are remixed into the song, with visual effects to match. Then, Peggy and company are sitting around a table like a mix of “The Last Supper” and the Ramones’ video for “I Wanna be Sedated.” The intro to the song ends, and JPEGMAFIA’s verse begins. The table explodes into action, and Peggy dances choppily and angrily. The people around him mosh, jump and run away, stringing what looks like videotape around them.
Other than a synchronized combination with another dancer (my favorite part of the video), Peggy dances solo as the video intercuts shots of the rest of the group jumping away in the distance.
The video ends with Peggy and company reunited outside. They jump over a fence and pose by some graffiti, and the video ends on a mid-jump freeze frame of the group.
Effectively describing audio-visual and impressionistic art forms such as music videos is hard to do. Peggy’s art is just as hard to pin down. His songs change on a dime. Their structures are basically amorphous, and his lyrics are exaggerations of the farthest possible viewpoint from the center.
“1539 N. Calvert” is one of Peggy’s simplest songs (which is not meant to be pejorative — it is an amazing song), which is probably a reason that it is so catchy.
But like I said, I am biased. I like JPEGMAFIA.