Music Spotlight: November 2021

Among albums released in the past two months, there is one that stands out.


Graphic by Cameron Smutz and Hailey Cordell

October album releases: Arts & Entertainment Editor Cameron Smutz talks about his thoughts on new albums each month in his Music Spotlight column. Smutz describes and praises his favorite album of October, LP! by JPEGMAFIA. “JPEGMAFIA is one of my favorite rappers because he’s just unique. There’s not really anyone else like him” Senior Federico Soto said.

JPEGMAFIA – LP! (Experimental Hip Hop / Glitch / Industrial Hip Hop) Warning: strong language

EQT Recordings • 2021

A personal favorite artist of mine – the radical Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA, returns once again to prove he is still undefeated. His music is entirely self made. He produces, writes, mixes and masters every song in his home studio, promoting a DIY ingenuity that embra

ces the counterculture. His career has been about embracing contradictions, such as making provocative noisy music pushing a militant agenda of black self-defense to confused white audiences – radical rap to mosh to. LP! Keeps up with the trend of consistency throughout his entire discography, basically releasing albums every year that are never less than magnificent.

LP! was released as two separate versions respectively titled the offline version and the online version. The offline version was released on YouTube and Bandcamp, and according to JPEGMAFIA, it contains his full artistic vision of what he wanted the album to be, including more tracks, and alternative mixes of the existing tracks. Unfortunately some of the songs and alternate mixes could not be published officially due to not being able to clear all of the samples, so a reduced version of the album called the online version is what was released physically and on music streaming platforms. From a listener’s viewpoint, the offline version stands out as the true form of the album, and some of the tracks exclusive to it, especially HAZARD DUTY PAY, are the best highlights.

Based on the single released for the album – TRUST!, no one had any idea what the album would sound like. TRUST! is unlike any other song he’s known for. Characterized by an uptempo synth-heavy melody and a humorously parodic and playfully delivered hook, it came to the ears of fans very unexpectedly but positively, yet it did not reflect how the album would sound.

LP! ended up being an exciting collection of music from the rapper and producer, showing off all sides of his creativity and expressing it in many different styles of songs. It is a left turn that is a stunning expansion of his punk ethos – pushing his anti-establishment rhetoric to the brink. His rapping and delivery is bold and engaging, and his lyricism is witty and scathingly confrontational yet impressively clever, using his button-pushing style to target subjects including internet trolls, cops, the music industry, numerous rock and pop stars, right-wingers and cultural appropriation. Despite already having so many albums under his belt, JPEGMAFIA’s menagerie of sonic dwellings and soundscapes continue to grow and successfully develop over time on LP!. While on some songs he might be anxiously and aggressively rapping out of spite over a heavy, guitar-oriented beat like on END CREDITS, he shows off his versatility as a producer by experimenting frequently over the whole album, whether it’s retooling classic soul and r&b samples to aggressively rap over on HAZARD DUTY PAY or WHAT KINDA RAPPIN IS THIS, creating an eerie background to go over a chilling sung performance on THOTS PRAYER, or layering symphonic horns over an off-kilter beat on REBOUND. The album constantly keeps the listener interested by constantly showing off experimentation with his rapping and production.

Senior Federico Soto said that LP! was his favorite album to come out recently. “He’s got a very distinct style when he uses his auto tune while he sings, and he like switches from yelling rapping to like very soft singing. I really like that.” Soto said. “He’s really just left field. He’s doing really weird stuff. But like it’s weird in the best way possible.”

JPEGMAFIA delivering a thrilling performance at the Neptune Theatre on November 20, 2021. (Photo by Cameron Smutz)

In November, I had the pleasure of seeing JPEGMAFIA perform live at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle. He performed many songs from LP! as well as older fan favorites. Out of about a dozen concerts I’ve ever been to, JPEGMAFIA is one of the best performers I’ve experienced. A great thing about his shows is that he interacts with the audience frequently, going into mosh pits, running through the crowd and rapping with fans. After already seeing him in concert once in 2019, I had high expectations, and he delivered remarkably on the energy and personality of his new album.

LP! shows a master at work, with his tools at their sharpest and ready to rhythmically strike forth. There isn’t a more interesting and well-rounded artist on the hip-hop scene at this moment in time than JPEGMAFIA.