“I just pray that I peak before my decline.”
This line, spit by JPEGMAFIA on “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot,” the lead single off his self-produced 2019 studio album “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” is an obvious statement of the anxieties of a creative artist; every artist fears for the time when their music just isn’t “it” anymore. But when one takes into account the pure rap excellence that is JPEGMAFIA’s recent music, this line almost feels silly coming from the artist. It’s obvious when listening to his music and seeing his vigorous performance that Peggy isn’t falling off anytime soon. He’s only just begun his ascent.
The industrial rap artist, born Barrington Hendricks, is a breath of fresh air from the redundancy of the same trap beats used by most Billboard-charting rappers, and his production skills are some of the best in the game right now. Hendricks embarked on his JPEGMAFIA Type Tour (a reference to a track off “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” “JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT“) mid-October and played a show at The Sinclair in Cambridge on Nov 4.
The show began with an hour long DJ set to much of the audience’s dismay, with the exception of the group of college-age boys moshing in the pit to overplayed trap songs. While the set itself was perfectly fine — with the exception of the DJ cutting off “Tia Tamera” (2019) before Rico’s verse, because, come on, who does that? — it wasn’t exactly what a group of twenty-somethings packed into The Sinclair like sardines in a hot venue on a Monday night needed. An hour after stated on the bill, the opener, fellow Baltimore-based rapper Butch Dawson played his set, which proved to be worth the long wait. If I were you, I’d keep an eye out for Dawson. His stage presence and flow give him all the markings of an up-and-comer.
Then began possibly the most intense concert experience I’ve ever been a part of. Over the hour that JPEGMAFIA played, dozens of different college boys jumped onstage to crowdsurf. JPEGMAFIA himself crowdsurfed, rolled around onstage and dove into the pit to perform in it. If there are two things JPEGMAFIA truly knows how to do, it’s producing and putting on a show.
Despite the tour’s name, the set didn’t limit itself to Peggy’s new tracks. Littered among songs from his new album were some older favorites off his formidable debut album “Veteran” (2018) and a Kenny Beats-produced single “Puff Daddy” (2019).
JPEGMAFIA started the night off with the aforementioned “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot,” one of his strongest new songs. Personal anxieties and bolstering threats layer over gospel-inspired distorted voices, rising from even-toned verses to manic, screaming lines toward the end of the song. “Jesus Forgive Me” is trademark Peggy, with rapid shifts from random noise to autotune and interplay between conventional SoundCloud rap, punk and industrial influences. So while JPEGMAFIA isn’t to be underestimated as a rapper, his knack for production truly sets him apart.
Rounding out the triple threat of rap skills and production is his infectious presence. His performing has the energy of a possessed man — Hendricks jumped, climbed and rolled on the stage in a way that makes you feel physically exhausted just looking at him.
“This next song is dedicated to my least favorite musician,” announced Hendricks, introducing a fan favorite track that was met with deafening screams of approval. He launched into his diss track to one of the most hated-yet-revered men in music, “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies” (2018).
After a slew of tracks that left both the audience and Hendricks dripping in sweat and exhausted, he closed out his set with lo-fi “Rainbow Six” (2018). After the show, Hendricks met with fans for a round of photos and signatures with the horde of fans that crowded around the merch table. Taking time to talk with fans and even recording an outro for Tufts’ WMFO 91.5 upon request from a fan, JPEGMAFIA was shockingly mellow compared to his stage persona and lacked the appearance of a reluctant artist forced into a meet and greet. Instead, he was engaging and ridiculously nice.
With his religious-like fan following and pure vigor for the rap industry, it’s evident that JPEGMAFIA is on the track for rap greatness, and if he continues on his track of dropping increasingly acclaimed albums, he’ll be unstoppable.