JPEGMAFIA’s shows are controlled chaos. At any moment, he could burst into heavy rock, give Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” an R&B remix, or flood the stage with bars for the eager fans to absorb. It can get intense, but his worries onstage have nothing to do with the intensity.
“The only time I can get scared in the crowd is if I’m out in a mosh pit and can’t physically move back to the stage,” JPEGMAFIA told REVOLT. “I’m afraid because I don’t have a DJ, and I have to get back to the stage to pause the song, so it doesn’t play some weird s**t or some Dixie Chicks right afterward.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the artist discusses what he expects from his Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival performance, a possible joint tour with Danny Brown, and how being on the road can be damaging to your mental health. Check out JPEGMAFIA hinting at albums for 2023 in our exclusive chat below!
What’s your relationship with live performing?
I look at performing like a full-time job. The thing I love to do is make music. Performing live is like me being in the field or something. I’m making the product, but I’m also out there selling it right now on the frontline. I’m making the pizzas in the back, then I put on the dumb uniform, and I go out there and twirl the f**king sign, too. I exude all this energy I don’t get to in regular life.
What was the first show you did?
The first time I remember rapping in front of people was when I was in the military. I was in basic training and rapping in front of the people in my squadron. My first official show was a show I did when my homie was performing, and he wanted part of it to be me coming up there and kicking him off and doing my performance. My first performance was a joke. I was supposed to be hostile, and nobody in the crowd knew. People were trying to get at me and stuff when I got onstage. It was hilarious.
To that point, have you ever been scared during a performance?
The only time I can get scared in the crowd is if I’m out in a mosh pit and can’t physically move back to the stage. But, even then, I’m not scared for my life. I’m afraid because I don’t have a DJ, and I have to get back to the stage to pause the song, so it doesn’t play some weird s**t or some Dixie Chicks right afterward.
How did you end up being put through a table onstage?
(Laughs). My homie is this AEW wrestler named Darby Allin. He wanted to put me through a table. He tried to put his homie through a table and use it to promote his show. He’s the most ghetto white person I’ve ever met. He pulled up and came up with the plan to do it an hour before the show. He told me, “I’m going to get on Facebook Marketplace and get a table. I’ll be right back.” He left for an hour and came back with a full table. I helped him get the hinges and s**t off, so when you go through it, you go straight through. Then we worked it out. I’m not a wrestler. He and I were supposed to do a move to his homie, but I did a move, and this motherf**ker did another move, lifted me with him, and put my a** through the table, too (laughs). I was injured from that s**t, dude. I got up, and breathing for two weeks was hard for me.
You’ve toured almost every year for the last five or six years. Have there been times when things didn’t go as planned.
(Laughs). We were in the U.K. this time, and we had this driver who kept hitting s**t. We almost missed this show because he was backing up and crushed this dude’s car. The dude got out and had all these chains on, so I think, “This ni**a definitely sells drugs.” They started arguing, and, long story short, we didn’t have a bus. We had to ride U.K. public transport, which was interesting (laughs). There was another time a truck crashed into the bus on some Final Destination s**t in the middle of us getting places.
Have you ever been shocked by any celebs who popped up to see you perform?
There have been a bunch like that. A long time ago, before I got to know him, I remember Hannibal Buress came to my show randomly. I had no idea, and someone told me afterward. That was probably the first time that happened. I was on tour with Turnstile, and Billie Eilish came to the show.
You’ve also toured with notable hip hop acts, such as Vince Staples on his “Smile, You’re On Camera Tour.” What was that experience like?
That was cool. Backstage, I would see Vince here and there, and we’d chop it up. We didn’t talk too much on tour, to be honest. I didn’t see him too much. It’s funny because after the tour, I would see him at festivals randomly, and we talked a lot better. We talked for hours at this festival right after the tour. People are just in their headspace on tour, so sometimes, they don’t want to talk. I didn’t talk much to anybody while on the tour because I was hungry, thinking I had to go out there and kill every night or else I would go broke.
You’re performing at the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival this weekend. What can fans expect?
I might do some new music. I don’t know. I’m waiting to release some new music soon to really start switching up my show. I’m going to come with the energy I always bring. My show is about to change within a few months. For the Okeechobee Festival, I’m going to come how I usually come.
It’s going to be in Florida. From your experience performing there, what do audiences in The Sunshine State appreciate?
It is always heavy punk and hardcore energy when I perform in Florida. When I perform in Florida, they respond most to aggressive energy. I love the Florida shows. I performed at Art Basel recently with Denzel Curry. Pretty cool. And he’s from [Carol City].
With all that energy being expended, how do live performances affect your mental health?
It can mess up your mental health (laughs). It can mess up your mental health if you’re touring too much. But it does give you an ego boost. You get adoration from the crowd. I felt excited after the show. I usually try to think of what I did wrong and try to fix it. I don’t usually think of much else when I get off from a show.
What are your tour hits?
My cover of [Carly Rae Jepsen’s] “Call Me Maybe” is probably my biggest tour hit, and it’s not released on Spotify or anything. It’s just a cover.
What are your most memorable shows?
There’s a show I did in Spain at Primavera, and it was about 10,000 people just spread out all across, and it was by the water. Coachella was tight. When I performed at Lollapalooza, there were a ton of people there. One show that sticks out is when I performed with the Gorillaz. Performing on the main stage hits way different. I walked out there and was going to do what I usually do. I couldn’t get personal with the crowd. I have to talk to them like they’re one body of water. I couldn’t pick out individuals; there were too many people. I went out there and naturally started yelling, “Hands up!” I never do that (laughs). That Gorillaz performance was the most memorable show just because that’s the most people I’ve performed to in general.
What rules do you have that stem from bad experiences?
One rule I stick by is having your own sound people. When you make really weird music, you have to go to places and try to fit into the norms of what they expect. It creates tension. There was one time this sound guy — some Duck Dynasty-looking motherf**ker — was pissed off because they were f**king something up on their end. I was trying to tell them, “Y’all are f**king up.” But they refused to take accountability for it. So, you have to have your own sound people.
What’s on your rider?
The only things on my rider are Band-Aids and alcohol swabs. I used to have champagne on there. I still do, but I usually don’t drink it anymore.
What do you have coming for the rest of 2023?
I have three albums coming. So I’m going to have a collab album, a solo album, and another one. That’s what I’m doing for the rest of the year.
That collab album is with Danny Brown, right?
Yeah. We’ve been working on that for about a year and some change.
Do you have plans on touring that?
I hope so. I think so, but I can’t really say so (laughs). I assume so, but nothing is official.