JPEGMAFIA took the stage on Wednesday night with a lot on his mind.
“Yo, I’ve been reading Kanye West tweets all day, that shit’s so wild. I’m so confused right now,” said the Baltimore noise-rapper.
It’s true, earlier in the day, Kanye West, nearly everyone’s favorite rapper, a man so instrumental in music and culture, proclaimed his love for Trump loud and proud. There are dozens of tweets about it, including, a picture of himself wearing a god damn MAGA hat. And not even Kanye could make that shit look cool.
JPEGMAFIA brings rage and relevance to his music. He busts shots at the alt-right, KellyAnne Conway, and the fucked-up status quo. That’s why he’s the most important rapper working today. He’s a veteran, outspoken, humorous and real, and is making some of the most interesting music out.
His beats skitter and pop, almost abstractly. Sometimes they’re dark and solemn. Sometimes they’re ignorantly violent and allow JPEG to go off on them. Peggy, as he’s affectionately known, opened his set with the Ol’ Dirty Bastard-sampling “Real Nega.” It’s basically ODB shrieking over tribal drums while JPEG spits serious bars all over the place. As soon as the song started, JPEG broke out into the center of the audience and let everybody get in on the moshing. There was not a single still body in the crowd, everyone was either jumping, pushing or both.
JPEG roamed the stage, the ledges, and the audience nonstop, interracting with fans who knew every single word, even the ad-lib sounds from his songs, (“Daaaamn, Peggy”) like a true rockstar. He even played all his own beats from iTunes, no DJ, no hypeman, just pure punk.
Although JPEG could’ve been the main course, in one of the most buzz-worthy shows since Tyler, the Creator/Vince Staples, Injury Reserve brought serious art to the stage next. Complete with LED screen, snow machines, and a hidden room underneath the stage (I wish I could properly describe this, but I’d write 200 words about it alone.)
Injury Reserve came with the tricks, but what struck me, more than the plastic money guns shooting fake Harriet Tubman $20 bills, was the immense talent in this rap group. Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey make some of the most lyrically and musically interesting music you haven’t heard yet.
They’ve been working hard since 2014, and have some of the hardest songs like “Oh Shit!!!,” “All This Money,” or sincere tracks like “Tktkv,” and “North Pole.” Ritchie performs with elegance and immense power. When he gets going, it’s like watching Mike Tyson wind up for a haymaker. He can spit with so much aggression while staying genuine and accessible. Stepa is just fresh as a pack of Extra.
Some of the songs these guys play need to be heard by the masses. “See You Sweat” is a bonafide hit and “Bad Boys 3”?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? THIS SONG KICKS SO HARD!
Injury Reserve and JPEGMAFIA are on a collision course with success, and they are 100% doing it their way. They are true artists. They’re not rocking Gucci or relying on drug-talk to sell to kids. They are genuinely some of the most talented rappers out today. It was fun moshing with them and 200 fans, but damn if it wouldn’t be unreal to see them play a 2,000 sold-out room. That’s where they’ll be soon. Word is bond.
Do not miss this show when it comes to your town.