Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Jpegmafia (left) for Crack Magazine- Photo by Baariks; “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” by SOPHIE Album Artwork (Transgressive, Future Music, MSMSMSM)

I’ve unintentionally made the theme of the week supremely talented producers. And in the case of the new track of the week, the emphasis is on unintentional. We had a month straight of great new music dropping, so we were due a bad week and it’s been a bad week. I almost had to talk about Pond’s aggressively average new album “9”, because it was somehow the best new music I’d heard this week. Luckily JPEGMAFIA had some trouble clearing a sample, made a fun YouTube video, and saved this week’s post.

It doesn’t look like next week will be the same, with James Blake’s “Friends that Break Your Heart” and a new BADBADNOTGOOD record coming out, but for the first time we have no honorable mentions for my favorite track of the week.

Mitksi’s new song was ok I guess…

Favorite New Track of the Week: “HAZARD DUTY PAY!” by JPEGMAFIA

I’ve mentioned at least a couple times that I really enjoyed JPEGMAFIA’s “Veteran” and to a lesser extent “All My Heroes Are Cornballs”. As he’s improved as a songwriter though, his music has gotten less glitchy and experimental- the sonic uniqueness that blew him up in the first place. There were definitely highlights like “COVERED IN MONEY!”, “BALD!” & “FIX URSELF!”, but I didn’t love “EP!” or “EP2!”, released late last year and early this year, respectively.

Regardless of how conventional his music does or doesn’t become, Peggy is such a stellar performer that it’s going to take a much longer string of duds before I’m not excited by a new release. Without the stellar production chops and creativity, he’s still bar for bar in a tier just below emcees of his era like JID or Rapsody. But at the end of the day, the production is what’s going to make a JPEGMAFIA project truly special.

“HAZARD DUTY PAY!”, depending on how you look at it, is either his most conventional song ever or a return to more adventurous production. It’s built around a soul sample, which has been the go-to move in the hip-hop producer playbook since Kanye first started producing for Jay-Z. But Peggy infuses his drums and synths so directly into the original rhythms of the song that it feels more organic than a typical chopped up soul beat while still keeping up that glitchy, alien aesthetic only he can effectively pull off.

His trademark shouted, breakneck flow glides over the sampled Anita Baker melodies so well that on the 1st listen I completely forgot to pay attention to a single lyric. It’s JPEG at his best, dropping hilarious bars after thought provoking bars, after hard bars. He sounds hungry in a way that I didn’t think was really the case on most releases since 2019.

This track was only released now and in the way it was because Peggy couldn’t clear the sample in time for his newest record that might be dropping later this year (might be the one time Anita Baker has done us wrong). If the rest of what he’s insinuated will be his last album is as good as this, he’ll be going out by topping anything he’s done before.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Ponyboy” by SOPHIE

What can I say about this song that isn’t obvious in the first 25 seconds?

A lot actually. SOPHIE’s music is incredibly obvious in its appeal (not to say it’s not niche), but there’s so much going on underneath the hood. “Ponyboy” is probably the most obvious example, with the gargantuan bass dominating the song from start to finish, not letting up for one second. But there’s such precise production and so many quirks around the bass that you might not even pick up without a decent set of headphones. You can enjoy the song completely on a surface level at a house party, and your producer friends can nerd out over how SOPHIE uses compression all at the same time.

Having completely different USPs that appeal to completely different demographics is a huge part of how hyperpop has become so cutting edge & popular. SOPHIE was at the heart of that. And before her tragic death earlier this year, she had really started to extend her influence to all kinds of genres of music, maybe most notably producing several tracks on Vince Staples’ “Big Fish Theory” & even a song for Madonna before that.

I couldn’t say I’m massively into hyperpop; More often than not it goes from knowingly flirting with obnoxiousness to marrying obnoxiousness and having 2 kids named annoying & overproduced. But it has its highlights, like some of Rina Sawayama’s work, late 2010’s Charli XCX, some tracks from Let’s Eat Grandma’s “I’m All Ears”. The latter 2 of those 3 had SOPHIE’s fingerprints all over them, and you can hear so much of her sound all over the genre, an obvious influence for so much Zoomer music. “Ponyboy”, for me at least, is still the blueprint for the genre.

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