Peep This Joint: JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs Album Review

All My Heroes are Cornballs marks a shift from Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA’s signature visceral sound as his latest project trades his aggressive energy for more melodic flows.

This project is JPEGMAFIA’s third studio album after the critically acclaimed Veteran which received much applause from critics for its off-kilter production and politically charged lyrical content. Despite the surprising incorporation of singing and more melodic content on All My Heroes, JPEGMAFIA successfully expands his artistry by including more vulnerable lyrics concerning his newfound success and utilizing new melodies that aren’t as prominent in his discography. 

For those new to JPEGMAFIA, he is a rap artist hailing from Baltimore best known for his experimental sound that includes glitchy production with brash lyrics and provocative song titles. Take the song “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies” from Veteran, which addresses singer Morrissey’s racist controversy with a merch t-shirt of activist James Baldwin. JPEGMAFIA aka “Peggy” has gained a cult-like fanbase with his unapologetic approach to his projects. 

Coming off a successful sophomore effort, Peggy continued his method of producing, mixing and mastering all tracks on his albums. He wrote on his Bandcamp page for All My Heroes that he felt obligated to make a successful album after Veteran’s reception. “This album is really a thank you to my fans tbh,” he wrote. “Veteran was the first time in my life I worked hard on something, and it was reciprocated back to me. This the most ME album I’ve ever made in my life.” 

His focus on creating an album that expresses himself fully turned up successful with this project where he reveals more aspects of his identity than what we were initially exposed to in his past discography. Right off the bat, the projects opens with “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot” where Peggy spits defiant bars over a sparsely-filled instrumental. He ramps up this aggressive energy at the end of each verse with a booming bass that’s very reminiscent of his past work until the chorus hits. A quick juxtaposition fills the listener’s ears as Peggy switches from yelling to auto-tuned crooning over a seamless beat switch. This shift to more melodic singing isn’t new to fans of Peggy, but is a more prominent aspect of this project compared to his previous work. 

The song, “Kenan Vs. Kel” highlights this shift where Peggy croons in auto-tune, “I don’t know this,” as he laments over his nervousness in having more well-known artists wanting to feature on his songs. This vulnerability in dealing with his new-found success is expressed as Peggy asks in the chorus, “How we gon’ make this work?/ But like, how can I make a good beat?” His vulnerability in this song signifies a change in his image from a defiant, “in your face” type of rapper to a more introspective and sensitive individual struggling with fame and success. 

Despite the shift, JPEGMAFIA still remains true to the confrontational and brash nature of his lyrics that many fans associate him with some of his other works on this album. Take the song, “Beta Male Strategies” for example, where he addresses keyboard warriors who criticize vehemently online yet hide behind internet anonymity. In this song, Peggy spits, “Say what you said on Twitter right now/ You only brave with a board and a mouse,” and leaves them with a warning, “Don’t get capped by a n‐‐a in a muhfuckin’ gown.” The song title itself also bolsters his bashfulness as he refers to these keyboard warriors as beta males. Songs such as this are familiar territory for JPEGMAFIA fans and remind listeners that despite his vulnerability in his latest work, he is still as loud and abrasive as ever.

If you’re a fan of JPEGMAFIA and haven’t listened to this project yet, you should definitely give this record a spin. Some songs that I recommend checking out are: “Jesus, Forgive Me, I Am A Thot”, “Grimy Waifu”, and “Free the Frail”. Overall, the inclusion of more melodic content that starkly differs from JPEGMAFIA’s past work marks a significant growth in his art and helps elevate his status as an up-and-coming rapper.

Peep this joint if you haven’t already!

Rating: 7.5 / 10 

Written by: Johann Oribello

Beneath The Surface: Thom Yorke – Anima

Thom Yorke’s solo release, driven by nuances of electronic and minimalist sounds, takes an experimental approach to create a compelling concept album.

Anima is the latest body of work from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. Coming three years after the band’s dreary, emotionally packed album, A Moon Shaped Pool, Anima sees Yorke solo (aside from his co-producer, Nigel Godrich), further exploring many of his familiar stylistic influences, with relatively minor distinctions from his prior releases. Every track on the record gets a full, but minimal, treatment of synthesizers, white noise, and understated vocal lines. The record echoes lyrical themes of dystopian futurism, self-transformation, and technological development. This release was also accompanied by a short film of the same title, which is not covered in this review but is available with a Netflix subscription.

The first track, “Traffic”, sets the tone for the album. Yorke laments societal corruption and the rising role of social media in people’s everyday lives, singing “Submit, submerged, no body.” The piece also takes heavy influence from electronica and dance music. The instrumental is progressive, and builds on itself with (supposedly) analog synthesizers and electronic drum kits.

Next, we segue into “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)”. Personally, I see this as a weak point on the record, as the track plays like something gone wrong on a Jon Hopkins record. This track sees the same forms of experimentation as “Traffic” while allowing Yorke’s vocals to come further into the forefront of the mix. While this is effective in the first half of the song, it loses its way in the back half when it introduces an unpleasant, whirring synth sound that serves little purpose other than to remind the listener that they’re listening to an experimental record.

Conversely, the pseudo-ballad, “Dawn Chorus”, is one of the album’s brightest moments. Yorke croons in a forlorn tone over ambient pads and strings, as he lyrically reflects on lost love, regret, and inability to change. This is a fantastic example of a track that does not try to be more than it is, and finds solace in its simplicity. Of all the moments on the record, this one evoked the most observable visceral response for me. There is not a single “standout” line in this piece, which is part of its beauty. The lyrics weave a larger narrative, following the progressive form of the instrumental.

“Not The News” brings back the aforementioned whirring synth but pairs it with a more cohesive set of lyrics. The second stanza reads, “A fortune teller, sea bird feather, cue the sliding violins, in sympathy.” I interpret this as Yorke losing grip on an optimistic perspective as the world descends into disarray. The sound of sliding violins can symbolize melancholy, which is confirmed when the listener is affirmed of the violins’ sympathetic tone. In this context, the sound that ruined “Last I Heard” for me is actually very effective. I find this implementation of the synth to be far less offensive, and even slightly additive to the track’s intentional monotony.

The album’s finale, “Runwayaway”, subtly departs from the tone of the rest of the album. Although the same motifs of instrumental and lyrical repetition, driving synths, and time-consuming progression are as present as ever, this song has a distinction. It does not rise throughout the piece, concluding with its climax.

It slowly devolves into nothingness.

The nearly six-minute cut sees its climax around the four-minute mark. After this point, it begins slowly stripping away instruments one by one until we’re left with only a muffled kick drum and Yorke’s understated, pained groaning in the background. Narratively, this track strikes me as a surrender of sorts. The protagonist in the world that Yorke has built gives himself to a dysfunctional society, begrudgingly accepting that he is unable to change it. It’s an understated but powerful ending. 

All things considered, this record is very effective for what it is: a concept album.

Some cuts are beautiful and artistic, while others fail to strike me with much purpose at all. I believe that Yorke intended for many moments on this record to sound underwhelming, as they contribute to the narrative of monotony in everyday life. While I don’t think the singer explored any uncharted territory, he seems to incorporate a bit more electronic (particularly techno and minimal) flair than usual. I look forward to hearing Yorke’s next body of work!

Rating: 7/10
Support the album here

Photo taken from: Pitchfork
Written by: Grant Jordan

Is Climax Worth Your Time?

Climax is one of the most memorable theater going experiences audiences will have for a long while!

Climax is one of the most genuinely frightening and haunting experiences I have ever had in my life.  This film deeply troubled and disturbed me on a level I have never really experienced with a film before.  This is an Arthouse French Extremist film directed by famous French filmmaker Gaspar Noe`.  Hist two most well-known films are Irreversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009).  These two films are known for depicting intense sequences of graphic violence or intense, psychedelic drug trips.  Now, I must confess that I am new when it comes to the works of Gaspar Noe`.  Climax is the only film of his I have seen so far.  I was inclined to check this film out, however, because of a very positive review published by YouTuber Adum Johnson of “YourMovieSucksdotOrg” who gave this film a glowing review and declared it the best film of 2018. Even though the film disturbed me on a level that I have never experienced before, does that mean this film is at least well-made?

Climax tells the story of a school of dancers that all share a passion and love of dancing together as indicated by the audition tapes shown of each of the characters. 

The film then starts off as they rehearse an extremely elaborate and seemingly very well-choreographed dance of theirs that lasts in the film for about six minutes and is captured in one shot.  They find themselves into some trouble, however, as they attend an after party in which most of the troupe accidentally drinks some sangria that was spiked with LSD.  It is then from this point that the film turns into an absolute nightmare. We never see what the dancers are hallucinating, only their reactions, and the way this affects everyone around them.

This is the opening dance sequence to this film that is almost six minutes long and done in only one shot

Despite this film being one of the most challenging viewing experiences, I still cannot deny the incredible craft that is on display.

This is not a film I have any desire to watch again.  In fact, I feel this film can only truly be described as a hellish nightmare, and it is certainly not for everyone.  Events occur in this film that are so unbelievably troubling, it makes this a challenging watch.  With that being said, the cinematography on display is extremely impressive.  The dance sequences that occur in this film are all captured in one continuous shot which makes them so impressive to watch. What’s interesting, however, is that these long takes aren’t exclusive to dance sequences.  Whenever the dancers try to relieve themselves of the horrors of their intense drug trip, the camera will often linger and follow them around the dance studio.  These shots will oftentimes last up to fifteen minutes.  The lighting and the music that accompany these scenes as well is equally impressive.  The film will often present contrasting harsh tones of either bright neon lights and decorations, or incredibly boring and stale brown dance studio floors.  And finally, the score for this film was woven into the narrative, as it was presented as the music the DJ was playing for the dancers during rehearsal and at the after party.  Overall, the score was very fun and memorable.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* DON’T READ THIS NEXT SECTION IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPOIL CLIMAX!

Now I would like to discuss some of the most horrific moments that occur throughout the film.  So, after the dance sequence occurs and the troupe drinks the sangria, the party starts, and the opening credits roll.  And if you’re wondering why I am only mentioning this now, it’s because the credits for this film start at about thirty to forty five minutes into this movie. 

What’s more is that they are presented in a very similar flashy style to that of Enter the Void.  After the credits roll, dancers become terrified when they realize that they are starting to experience a horrible psychedelic trip.  The teacher of this school, who has a young son who can’t be more than seven years old, accidentally drinks some of the sangria and begins to start hallucinating himself.  This worries his mother who is also now high on LSD and she decides to lock in in the electrical room to keep him away from the other dancers.  Although a horrible move, these actions are somewhat justified upon remembering that they are all high on LSD.  As the dancers begin to figure out who is the person who spiked the LSD, they try to find other dancers who did not drink any sangria at all.  They find one dancer who did not drink any, but the reason is still unclear and unknown.  That’s all the convincing they need however, to decide to throw him out into the snow locking him outside for the night.  They find another one of the dancers who did not drink any since she is pregnant.  The dancers do not believe her that she is pregnant though and they start kicking her stomach and beating her to the ground.  They eventually convince her to punch her own stomach, effectively aborting her own baby and causing a miscarriage.  The camera then lingers back to one of the main dancers, played by Sofia Boutella, lying near the door where the little boy is screaming and crying as he tries to escape the electrical room.  As the dancer tries to get the teacher to let him out, all the electricity goes off and the screaming suddenly stops.  Everyone now realizes that the little boy has accidentally electrocuted himself in the room.  The teacher screams and cries as she realizes she has accidentally killed her son.  The main dancer mentioned before is raped by another female dancer, a brother and sister pair of twins accidentally sleep together, and the final sequence during the party consists of everyone either having sex or convulsing on the floor.  The shot is presented upside down so the floor is on the top of the frame and the actors on the floor are on the bottom of the frame.  After this, we find out one of the separate female dancers spiked the sangria with LSD as we find her bag is full of cartons LSD and they even shows her taking some LSD eye drops herself.  Further, the dancer thrown into the snow has frozen to death outside, and the teacher has slit her wrists to mourn the loss of her son.

Although Climax is a really well made film, should you still see it though?

Climax is a film that is designed and created to intentionally make you extremely uncomfortable and polarize audiences who view it.  Many critics have pointed out, and I will follow suit in saying that audiences will either absolutely love or absolutely hate this film.  In all honesty, however, I’m not sure how I truly feel about this movie.  I acknowledge that what Gaspar Noe` has done with his directing and cinematography is near groundbreaking; Simultaneously, I’ll acknowledge that I was absolutely miserable while viewing the film.  Although this was intentional, it really decreased the “re-watch-ability” factor for me which I feel is crucial for any film.  I recommend this film the most to audience members who are looking for something unique and unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.  I understand the current landscape of films nowadays is super hero movies and Disney remakes, so this is definitely a nice change of pace from that.  However, the film is still so miserable that I think this might be too far for even the most seasoned audience members who want some more creativity in their films.  Here’s what I will say though: If what I have described to you sounds crazy enough that you feel the need to watch it, you should do exactly that.  For me, I acknowledge this is usually not a film I would watch, but I wanted to challenge myself.  If you’re not into disturbing visceral experiences like this, don’t watch it.  This will give even the bravest film viewers nightmares and may likely leave you in a bad head space for the next day or two, as it did with me.  I can’t really classify this movie as good or bad, but rather just disturbing.  For me, this was a masterfully made film that upset me greatly, which is why I’m glad I watched it, but I never want to watch it again.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Living with Hope: experimental theater

The San Diego State theater department recently teamed up with Playwrights Project to stage “Living with Hope” in SDSU’s experimental theater from March 16-19. The performance consisted of two short plays: Mabelle Reynoso’s “Other People’s Kids” followed by Out of the Yard Playwrights’ “Finding Our Way.” Both plays centered on the cycle and struggles of addiction.

The first play was prefaced by a series of abstract and disturbing images, such as a detailed drawing of the Grim Reaper, projected onto the stage’s backdrop. The images were adorned with provoking phrases like, “Just another hit… euphoria setting in… lifeless here I die,” and “I did things no girl should dare.”

Photo by Julianna Ress.

“Other People’s Kids” featured interconnected stories related to meth use. Destiny Girley and Nick Sandoval played Gaby and Jesse, a young couple expecting a child. Gaby is an ex-meth user while Jesse is still using and selling, which leads to abusive behavior toward Gaby. Gaby attempts to get her life together for their child, and ultimately their breakup. Jake and Gaby’s story realistically displayed the pitfalls and manipulation that come from meth use and abusive relationships.

Alex DeMarco played Patty, mother to Brown University-bound teen daughter Mackenzie, played by Paige Jensen. Mackenzie, while an exceptional student, is a social outcast due to her fierce academic dedication. She turns to drugs looking for a feeling of normalcy. Obtaining meth through Jesse, she sacrifices her health and college plans because of the drugs, much to Patty’s dismay. Mackenzie’s story ends somewhat unresolved, as it remains unknown if she recovers from her addiction. However, amidst Patty’s disgust at what her daughter has become, she realizes that Mackenzie is still human and is suffering from a disease. The ambiguity of Mackenzie’s character arc reflects the uncertainties faced by addicts’ families – will she recover? Will she die? Will she spend her entire life on the streets? Mackenzie and Patty’s relationship was a heartbreaking and accurate display of the struggle to keep hope alive when parenting an addict.

“Finding Our Way” began immediately after the final scene of “Other People’s Kids” and was a much more abstract look at addiction. The play featured several reenactments of the characters’ first time using various drugs due to peer pressure, low self-esteem and curiosity. The most powerful scene was when a mother came home with a man, both clearly intoxicated, and proceeded to fight right in front of her daughter while three other characters attempted to shield the daughters’ eyes.

“Finding Our Way” stressed that there are better ways to treat addicts than incarceration, such as rehabilitation centers, therapy and meditation. The play stood firmly against jail time for drug-users, since those laws affect the families of addicts arguably more so than the addicts themselves.

The play additionally featured “addiction” personified, who goaded the other characters into doing drugs to attempt to catch the feelings they constantly chase. The characters would fall at the touch of the “addiction” character, depicting the immense power addiction has over their lives.

The performance as a whole portrayed addiction in two wildly different ways. “Other People’s Kids” presented the many lifestyles of drug addicts, emphasizing that drugs can find anyone. “Finding Our Way” offered a look into the addicts’ minds, and the options available and steps necessary to reach recovery. “Living with Hope” treated addiction effectively and realistically, and avoided going over the audience’s heads by being preachy or cheesy, as is often true of performances about drug addiction. The show was especially powerful and relevant to students, but the stories, as “Living with Hope” stressed, could relate to anyone.

Featured Image by Julianna Ress.