Calling an album All My Heroes Are Cornballs reads immediately as a brilliant indictment of celebrity culture, but what about when said whistleblower exists—to a steadily increasing number of fans—as a hero himself? “Some people might see me as a hero, and I might be a cornball to some people,” JPEGMAFIA tells Apple Music. “It can be turned on the person who created it. I’m not infallible or trying to say I'm not a cornball. I'm just saying, all my heroes are cornballs.” The album and declaration come just a year after Veteran, the project that brought the Brooklyn-born Baltimore MC and producer his most visibility. So what does Peggy do with all of the eyes and ears he now has at his disposal? The same thing he’s done from the beginning of his music-making career: tell people about themselves, whether they’re ready to hear it or not. Read on as JPEGMAFIA talks Apple Music through some of All My Heroes Are Cornballs' more provocative selections.
“Beta Male Strategies” “Going back to the title [of the album], I'm letting you know off the bat, I'm a false prophet. Don't get your hopes up, because everybody's human. I might put a MAGA hat on one day. It's unlikely, but you don't know, so it's just like, 'I'm a false prophet/Bringin’ white folks this new religion/My fans need new addictions.’ It's not like I'm the first artist to struggle with notoriety or anything like that. I'm just framing it through my lens. I've been underground and poor for years, so this is hilarious to me."
“Grimy Waifu” "‘Grimy Waifu’ is actually about a gun. They probably changed it now because the times are different, but [when I was in the military] they framed it like, ‘This is your gun. This is your girl. You gotta sleep with her…’ In the female squad, they probably did the opposite: ‘This is your n*gga. Bring your n*gga to bed.’ It's framed like it's a love song, but it's a song about me and my rifle.”
“PRONE!” “The intention behind ‘PRONE!’ was to make a punk song with no instruments. This is a song that's made completely digitally. I feel like people in other genres, specifically rock—I go back to rock a lot because rock spends a lot of time trashing rap—a lot of people in rock had this idea that rappers aren't talented. In my opinion, we're fucking better than them. We're better writers, we think deeper, our concepts are harder—rap evolves faster and at a higher rate than any other genre. The only difference is rap has a bunch of n*ggas doing it and rock has a bunch of white boys doing it. I made this song just to be like, 'I can do what you do and I don't even have to learn how to play drums. I'm in here playing with my hands, bitch! And I can still do this shit.'”
“All My Heroes Are Cornballs” “Structurally it makes no sense, but thematically it’s the most straightforward song on here: rapping about the idea that the people we’re supposed to look up to are corny as shit. I feel like this one sums up everything, because I’m not doing anything weird vocally, I’m singing and then I’m rapping, but the execution of it doesn’t make sense: It starts off one way and I’m singing, and there’s like a long-ass hook where I don’t actually say anything and then there’s like a verse, and then the other hook that comes in is different, and then the end is like my homie ordering a bacon smokehouse meal. I came very close to cutting it, actually.”
“Thot Tactics” “I actually wrote the rap first and that melody I had, and when I was writing the song, I would hum that melody over the part where it is now, and in the back of my head I told myself I’m gonna write something to that later, but I just sat down one day and I was like, nah, n*gga, this is it! This is the song. I can’t hire En Vogue to do this, I gotta do it myself. I’m a DIY n*gga. I want some shit done, I do it my muthafuckin’ self!”
“BasicBitchTearGas” “I always told myself that one day I’d do a cover of ‘No Scrubs,’ and I just wanted to make that a reality. Bucket-list-type shit. I love this song, man. It’s one of the best songs ever written. And I really like recontextualizing songs that mean a lot to people, like pop music, because it exposes the reality of these songs. That these songs are excellent—regardless of how popular they are and regardless of the narrative that’s been built around some of these songs, these are excellently written, beautiful songs, and I wanna take time to appreciate them.”
“Papi I Missed U” “I wanted to put something on record that was completely, exactly how the fuck I felt. There was no trolling, this is how I feel. And I want people to hear that and I want people to know that there's no fucking answer [for it]. I don't like you and there's nothing you can do about it. That's how they made my black ass feel for my whole fucking life. So when I say some shit like 'I hate old white n*ggas, I'm prejudiced…' What now? I said it, I meant it, it is what it is. They don't give a fuck about our feelings, I don't give a fuck about theirs. It's returning all the shit they always give to me and give to black people. All this shit these racist types give to people of color, I'm giving it right back to them and I'm watching them scatter because they can't fucking take it.”