Photo: Kalina Simone
JPEGMAFIA On 'Veteran,' "Call Me Maybe" & How He Wants To Disappoint You
There is a sense of liberation JPEGMAFIA reserves for a live stage. At his Sunday set at Pitchfork Fest in Chicago’s Union Park that freedom involved letting out some rage.
His energetic set included single “Vengeance | Vengeance,” and “I Cannot F***ing Wait Until Morrissey Dies” from his latest full-length album, the politically charged and pop culture opinionated Veteran.
But fans at the fest reminded the rapper that they’re waiting for his forthcoming latest album that has yet to be released. "Oh the disapointment is coming very soon," he answered back from stage the same way he’s been answering questions about it on social media.
The self-proclaimed "self-hating millennial" and former Air Force veteran isn't a new artist. He's been working on music most of his life, and the success of Veteran isn't lost on him.
"One consistent good thing I can say about the music industry is that at least I can make music freely now," he says, "and I don't have to do it when I'm off of a nine to five."
The Recording Academy spoke to the rapper after his Pitchfork set about Veteran, his popular "Call Me Maybe" cover, his latest single "The Who," his time serving in the Air Force and how he feels about and the impending dissappointment of his new project.
First off, I have to ask about your Twitter bio, which says you're a "self-hating millennial." Tell me more about that one. What does that mean?
I mean, it's self-explanatory, you know? At the time I wrote it, I was being cheeky, but it actually has meaning now because "millennial" is such a colloquialism. Am I using that word right? You know, millennial, people think, "Oh, millennial this and millennial that." So it's just like every millennial, I hate myself, I guess.
How are you liking this year's Pitchfork Fest? How is it paying for today's crowd?
I loved it. The crowd was really- there's a lot of f***ing people you know. I'm always [surprised] when it happens 'cause I come from not a lot of people coming out. It was really good. There was a lot of people.
You're very honest about how you feel surprised by your success, especially with Veteran. Why are you so surprised?
I just been making music for a long time. You know, it wasn't working for so long that when it started working, it was just kind of surprising, you know? It's still kind of, but you know, I'm not going to be like Taylor Swift and being surprised like 10 years later and s***.
What has kept you going? What has motivated you?
Always wanting to make music. I enjoy making music more than anything in the world. It's the only thing that it's felt the same since I was like 15. Everything else changes, but that s*** never changes, so I just want to keep doing that.
You were serving in the Air Force before finding success in music. Did that interest in music come after the Air Force?
Oh no. Way before. It was just halted by [serving in the Air Force]. But no, [music came] way before. I've been loving music since I was real young.
Did you stop making music or creating music while you were serving?
No, I just couldn't do it because I had a Dad that had a tough schedule, so there was no way for me to really pursue a career, so that's why I say "halted." I feel like if I wasn't in, I would have been pursuing that anyway, but it is what it is.
I want to talk about your album, last album, Veteran. You threw a lot into it. Was there something specific you wanted to achieve with it?
I just wanted to level myself up from whatever I did before. I always try to live outside of my comfort zone, and I was just trying to step outside again with that. It's always what I do. That was really the main point. There wasn't really any other point. Any other point is just made up by other people. There is nothing. The art is just out there. I don't tell people what to think about it.
Is there a song that you're most proud of at the moment?
My "Call Me Maybe" cover. It's a proud moment. People keep yelling it at me on stage and I'm just like, "y'all really want to hear that? That song is so depressing."
What's depressing about it?
Just listen to it. Just listen to my cover of "Call Me Maybe," and you'll see. You'll be like, "why would anyone want to hear this Live?" It's funny.
You had a completely different life before making music for a living. How is it being able to work on music? Getting that second chance?
Feels f***ing great. It's nice to be able to make money from something that you actually like doing. I feel really lucky. I don't really have any other reviews about it. It's just really good. One consistent good thing I can say about the music industry is that at least I can make music freely now, and I don't have to do it when I'm off of a nine to five shift or something.
I want to touch on something that I spoke with Rico Nasty about. Pitchfork wrote a piece about her reclaiming the angry black woman stereotype with her music. I wanted to ask you about this more generally, because I feel like you let a lot of energy out. Do you have any thoughts on how music works as a vehicle to destroy stereotypes?
Music and media are the vehicle because, unfortunately, this is just true, pretty much all people's opinions are formed about everything from media, movies, music. I feel that's a great responsibility. But I don't feel like anyone's obligated to do anything about it. No one has to acknowledge it and do anything. I do because I just recognize the power it has, you know? We can pretend like music and movies and shit don't really matter because it's all fiction, but unfortunately, this is the s*** that makes people form their opinions. Yeah. I think it's not only is it a vehicle, but it's actually one of the strongest vehicles low key.
You've lived in a whole bunch of different parts of the country. You grew up in the South. You've lived in Baltimore, and now you're in LA. Is there any city that has influenced you the most?
Baltimore. Baltimore has the hardest work ethic out of all cities. It makes you want to work harder.
Do you feel like you represent Baltimore in some sort of way?
I think I represent Baltimore in a certain way. I think I represent a subsection of Baltimore. But for me, I'm not like I wasn't born and raised in Baltimore. I came there later. I get, I don't think I could ever truly represent somewhere where I didn't go to high school and s*** like that. But I think for some people, they see me as a symbol for Baltimore, and I'll carry that torch if I have to. But I think that mantle deserves to be [applied] if I get more popular or whatever. It'll bring more eyes to Baltimore, and then somebody from there can rise up. Then they can be like the real mantle. Me, I see myself as a stepping stone for just the stuff I witnessed in Baltimore, all the great artists that don't get any shot.
Let's talk about "The Who," your latest single. What was the inspiration behind that?
I made that song so long ago. I was trying to make a Pop song, and I was like, "I'm going to make a Pop song 'cause I feel like it," and that was really the inspiration for it. Then I got my homegirl Eyas to sing on the hook. Beautiful voice, great, formidable producer, too. She's great.
It wasn't really much thought into it, you know. It was just like something I just kind of did. That's why I was like, when I put it out, I let people know. Look, this is something that was on Veteran, and I took it off. I made this years ago. This is not new music. It's just something I wanted y'all to hear 'cause, I don't know.
Don’t rely on the strength of my image. If it’s good, then it’s good. Shit is out of my hands pic.twitter.com/ZeuyfUfqDJ
— JPEGMAFIA (@darkskinmanson) May 4, 2019
You're teasing your new album a lot of social media, and on stage. What can we expect on this next one?
What album? What you mean? Ain't no album yo. Look.
There's nothing going on here but disappointment, okay? That's what's coming next. I don't know what that's going to sound like specifically, but when the disappointment comes, it comes. That s*** may sound like Oreo cookies or something. You never know what might happen. Just stay on your toes, man. There's no album. I don't- what? What? What?
You've got this thing with your fans where you keep talking about how this disappointment is going to come. What is behind all this?
It's just really whack shit. You know, when you get your hopes up for something, and it doesn't fall through? I just want to recreate that feeling.
People are excited about the disappointment coming up.
Yeah. Think about that. It's 2019, and there's a certain amount of people who are excited for me to literally let them down. That's beautiful.
Any collabs you want to do in the future?
Yeah. Björk for sure. Definitely, I would like to do like something with Tommy Genesis, too. There's a lot of people actually. I don't know, we'll see. Who else? George Bush. See what he's doing. Get that George Bush feature. You know he'd be painting. He probably be rapping on the side, too.
After Pitchfork Fest, what's next for you?
I'm going to go home and just, you know, put the finishing touches on this whack ass disappointing s***, and that's it. That's all I got going on.
Do you know when we can expect a disappointment to come out?
I have no clue. I don't even know what you're talking about.