Baltimore’s experimental Hip Hop artist JPEGMafia has been around for a while, releasing a solid catalog of albums and singles through the Deathbomb Arc label and Bandcamp. With the release of his latest full-length album, ‘Veteran’, larger music outlets such as The Needle Drop and Pitchfork took notice, praising its originality and humor, expanding his fan base, and giving his live draw a significant push in a few short months. Teaming up with the similarly rising hip-hop crew Injury Reserve, JPEGMafia hit the road for a lengthy tour ending in San Francisco last week.
Previously, I covered JPEGMafia’s performance at San Francisco’s Thee Parkside in December of last year, where he opened for cloud rapper Slugchrist, as well as a headlining show at Elbo Room the April before. Turnout for both shows was modest, but JPEGMafia (also known by the abbreviated moniker ‘Peggy’) performed at a pace and intensity that would have been appropriate for a hardcore punk show at The Gilman. This past Friday, May 4th, San Francisco finally gave him the audience he deserves, at the all-ages venue Slim’s.
Arriving at the venue before doors, I found a line of fans stretching from the entrance to the end of the block. While the age demographic hovered around the late teens to early 20s, the cultural diversity was significant, reflecting the bay area melting pot. Chatting with fans to kill time, I found them to have broad music tastes, ranging from acts like Australian pop-rock artist Alex Cameron to rapper 21Savage.
Armed with just his laptop of backing tracks and a microphone, Peggy quickly ditched his t-shirt and threw himself all over every surface of the stage, and jumped into the audience for half of his set. Like some kind of sinkhole that formed in a lake, Peggy was surrounded by a sea of swirling fans, all trying to get close while rapping along to his tracks. Profusely sweating after just a couple songs, Peggy’s energy remained high, and his enunciation and flow were crisp and hard. Peggy’s songs are often filled with cutting humor, usually punching up at political and entertainment figures, and his set reflected that.
Peggy gave his opinion on Smiths frontman Morrissey, “I hate his hair, I hate his accent; I would beat the British out of him if I saw him.” before launching into the track “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies”, and later told the crowd, “This one’s for the metal fans.” before the track “ALL CAPS WITH SPACES”, with lyrics to the effect of, “Heard you like Pantera, bitch, not me! Heard you like Burzum, bitch, not me!” as part of a commentary on the fascists in their fanbases. The formerly DC-based but now local rapper Heno joined Peggy onstage for their collaborative track, “Does this ski mask make me look fat?”.