By Jack M. Angelo, Senior Content Producer

The city of Baltimore has participated in the culture of Hip-Hop from its inception in the early 70s. However, the Maryland city has never achieved mainstream representation in the genre. Artists like King Los and Tate Kobang have made their way in the game, receiving some recognition, and Maryland acts such as Logic have ascended into the mainstream in recent years, but no one truly from the city of Baltimore has risen to the level of rappers like Kendrick Lamar or Chance the Rapper, artists who have become the faces of their respective cities in rap music.

However, this may be the decade this finally changes. Though he may originally hail from New York, JPEGMAFIA moved to Baltimore in 2014 and has made it his home and base for music. Though this may discredit him as a Baltimorean in some native eyes, there seems to be very little similar sentiment on the West Coast towards 2pac, despite his New York nativity. In a world where the internet has faded borders, this may be Baltimore’s last opportunity to cultivate a unique sound in the Hip-Hop landscape before civic representation in music becomes a thing of the past.

JPEGMAFIA towards the beginning of his set at Metro Gallery, in Baltimore, MD, on February 15, 2018. (Photo by Jack M. Angelo for StayUp.News).

Releasing what is already likely to be one of the best projects of 2018, Veteran, JPEGMAFIA, a.k.a. Peggy, is currently on a national tour with Wisconsin rapper Milo. On February 15, Peggy returned home to Baltimore to rock the Metro Gallery. After setting up a simple laptop on a table, Peggy was ready to begin the show as the first act of the night, and the only act anyone really needed to see.
The first song, titled “Real Nega,” begins with a jarring vocal sample that gives way to an insane drum pattern that does not let up for the next two and a half minutes. During this first blast of sound, Peggy immediately jumped off into the crowd, moshing around with it, all while impressively hitting every word in the song. When he had finished the track, Peggy climbed back on the stage and said, “somebody punched me right in my face. Thank you, I needed that.”

The Dark Skin Manson, as he is often called, spent most of his songs in the audience, even saying, “Fuck the stage,” at certain points in the set. In one of the few more relaxed moments of the performance, Peggy spit an a capella verse about white liberals, and his disdain of their attitudes. This should come as no surprise to any Peggy listener, expecially considering his song, “Libtard Anthem,” which features lyrics like “Word on the street you’re Bill Maher…word on the street you fucked Tomi Lahren.” After finishing the verse, Peggy added, “And that’s not a freestyle, that’s a fact.”

JPEGMAFIA reciting facts during his set at Metro Gallery, in Baltimore, MD, on February 15, 2018. (Photo by Jack M. Angelo for StayUp.News).

JPEGMAFIA’s music is often incredibly abrasive, but his personality nonetheless shines through, as it also does in his live performances. Peggy’s sense of humor also entertained the crowd throughout the night. “This next song is garbage, horrible, makes no sense,” he said to introduce the track “Germs,” in which he commented on the fart-like sub-bass noise that initiates the track. He also took an unsurprisingly long amount of time during his set to discuss his feelings regarding his “least favorite musician in the world.” Upon hearing this phrase, the crowd cheered, aware they were about to hear a fan favorite track from Veteran, titled “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies.” “I’m slapping the shit out of Morrissey for Hip-Hop,” he added before jumping back into the crowd to perform the song.

Hip-Hop has never been a meritocracy. You often have to know someone to get somewhere, and the cream does not always rise to the top—especially in small places that face devastating poverty like Baltimore City. Hip-Hop success stories may be few and far between in Charm City, but if JPEGMAFIA is not blowing up in the near future, then the world is a cruelly unfair place. Missing out on this incredible local talent is a huge mistake for any Hip-Hop fan.

These incredible photos from JPEGMAFIA’s performance at Metro Gallery, in Baltimore, MD, on February 15, 2018, were taken by StayUp.News senior content producer and photographer Jack M. Angelo:

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