"The world just caught up to what I was doing, you know?"

New York artist JPEGMAFIA is an artist that could only exist in 2019. His music and aesthetic are products of the millennial world - an Internet culture obsessed with celebrity, perception and the outsider.

His latest album, ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’, touches on all these themes, with the rapper’s ability to vocalise the zeitgeist leading to his new album being lauded as one of the year’s best.

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With the new project and his previous album, ‘Veteran’, JPEGMAFIA has established himself as one of the most innovative voices in music.

However, the New York MC told Clash it has taken a while to reach this point: “The world just caught up to what I was doing, you know? I think that the last two albums have really just, like, wrapped up the idea of me really well in a way that people could understand.”

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In many ways, JPEGMAFIA is the embodiment of Internet culture: part-futuristic, part-punk, and with a keen sense of self-awareness.

As serious as some of his subject matter is, the rapper has used humour to cultivate a dedicated following. Although in some respects, he doesn’t think rap music takes itself seriously enough.

“It doesn’t get the respect that rock does, and shit like that,” he says. “They got all the little separate genres. It’s like, ‘Oh, crunchy rock and chocolate rock’, and, you know, ‘rock with strawberries on it’. They don’t respect rap - they group us all together like it’s one thing, but we’re not one thing. We’re not monolithic.”

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His ability to approach nuanced topics in an accessible way is a massive part of his appeal, with the title of his latest album demonstrating his ability to be critical of celebrity culture, while also defending it.

“I think I’m critical of both sides because everyone’s critical of celebrities - no one gives a fuck,” he says. “Now when I see, like, Shia Labeouf walking around LA, just doing nothing, and just like not talking to anybody, dressed like a wizard or whatever the fuck, or Jaden Smith dressed like Batman, it’s like: I get it. That’s all you can do, cos nobody will listen.”

He has the same attitude towards politics, and has previously been critical of both the political right in America, as well as people who are ‘fake-woke’. This balanced and yet irreverent understanding of politics also feeds into his music.

“A lot of songs are specific to the political climate of the time and they show, they’re like a time capsule,” he muses. “The Sex Pistols, or like what Bob Dylan was doing with his politics in music, or Marvin Gaye. It’s like a snapshot of the Vietnam era; the Trump era will be similar.”

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His love for modern musicians is also clear, with and is quick to praise the UK artists he feels embody the same spirit as himself.

“I just like when I listen to slowthai, or Octavian, people like that, or even like The Streets, and Little Simz,” he enthuses. “When I hear their perspective, I like it because I never grew up where they grew up, so I like hearing it because it’s something I don’t know.”

Speaking specifically about Northampton rapper slowthai, his appreciation is clear: “He’s the best out right now, one of the best rappers in the world. Not just the UK, but the entire world!”

Anyone who is familiar with his music will have picked up his affection for video games, and given his untameable creative spirit, it’s no surprise JPEGMAFIA wants to expand his production into that field.

“I want to score video games and score animes. I really, really wanna score music,” he says. “I really enjoy just making music and looking at someone else’s vision and idea and then making music - interpreting it in my own way and collaborating in that way with somebody would just really be fun to me.”

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As an artist who looks set to help define the next decade, it’s easy to forget the impact he has already had at the end of the 2010s. In particular, his previous album ‘Veteran’ has already started making an appearance on Album Of The Decade run-downs.

“I don’t know when it happened or why it happened, but honestly I’m appreciative of it,” he laughs. “Those ‘Best Of Decade’ lists, they live on for a long time and people years from now look at those things, so I’m glad that I’ve been etched in time from everybody. I’m really appreciative, honestly.”

The New York rapper’s relatable humility combined with his unstoppable creative energy make him an artist set to make a massive impact in the decade to come. If you’re ever in doubt about the future of rap music, we recommend looking no further than JPEGMAFIA.

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Words: Will Rosebury
Photography: Will Spooner
Fashion: Harry Clements

Catch JPEGMAFIA at the following shows:

February
26 Amsterdam Paradiso Noord (SOLD OUT)
27 London EartH
29 Birmingham O2 Academy 2

March
1 Manchester Academy
2 (SOLD OUT) 3 Dublin The Academy (SOLD OUT)
4 Glasgow SWG3 TV Studios (SOLD OUT)
6 London EartH (SOLD OUT)
7 Paris Trabendo
9 Cologne Yuca
11 Antwerp Zappa
12 Amsterdam Paradiso Noord
14 Berlin Saalchen
16 Copenhagen Loppen (SOLD OUT)
18 Stockholm Fryshuset Klubben (SOLD OUT)

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