American boy band Brockhampton put out some of my favorite music releases of 2017- their Saturation trilogy is a joyride consisting of energetic bangers, with occasional bursts of the member’s history and social commentary layered in. They were on a roll and were set to release their next album, Puppy, but then the Ameer controversy happened. One of their key members, Ameer Vann, who is on the cover of all of their Saturation albums – was put under a storm of allegations from different women accusing him of emotional and sexual abuse. And I think Brockhampton did the right thing by kicking out Ameer (or he left, not sure) because Ameer himself admitted to some aspects of the allegations and apologized for it. Of course, Ameer has the right to be forgiven but it can’t go on like nothing happened.
Anyway, I’m here to review the new album, not talk about my opinions on the Ameer controversy – I don’t think I have a unique take on the topic, anyway. Point is, Brockhampton had a tough first half of this year, they’ve been through a lot – and the overall mood of the album shows that.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say this album is Brockhampton’s most mature release, so far – sure, they are hopping and skipping around and having fun in some tracks, but they come out with some tracks that seem to be born purely out of their insecurities and problems that came with their rise to fame.
NEW ORLEANS sparks up the album with the lead of a kazoo-y synth and one of the most memorable rap verses from Dom on the album – I feel that it could be better if the length was a bit shorter. The rattling hats and kick migrate into THUG LIFE where, suddenly, the vocals get smoother and the instrumental atmosphere changes into a piano-driven pop ballad. The industrial production brought back in BERLIN where bearface takes care of the chorus, and Joba ends the track with one of my favorite lyrical bits from the album (where he talks about having the backbone to carve out your own way instead of giving into peer pressure):
Good riddance, goodbye, out of sight, out of mind
Cutthroat every time, this time I get what’s mine
Where the hell is your back bone? Ducking me like whac-a-mole
Looking like an inflatable at a car show; a spectacle
Lick my finger, bet I found the wind
I follow that shit wherever it blows
You hung yourself, that’s not my fault, I just supplied the rope, ugh
Most thoughts, I don’t think twice, make decisions I’ll die by
Never asked for the drama, but I’ll turn it into dollars
Dollars, dollars, dollars
There’s something about the track – SOMETHING ABOUT HIM – that makes this track one of my favorites of the album. Maybe it’s the autotuned silk of Kevin’s vocals, or the thick bassline that diddles in every now and then, or the unrelenting percussion pattern.
Merlyn brings back the angsty energy from the Saturation trilogy with WHERE THE CASH AT, complementing an icy beat – it’s catchy, and just the right length.
Lush strings enter the tracklist for the first (and not certainly not the last) time in WEIGHT – which is another favorite track of mine. Kevin finally gets a significant presence on a track by laying down the heaviest verses from the album, where he talks about his feelings with the rapid rise to fame. He brings up one of his members’ self-harming tendencies. He misses “the old days” where they didn’t seem to have a care in the world. And while, speaking about the old days, he speaks up about how he was confused with his sexuality:
And I ain’t done (No, no) Yeah (Tell something)
And I ain’t done, you heard me? I ain’t done
(Yeah, I’m screaming ohh, oh-ohh, oh-oh)
I really miss the old days before the cosigns
I really miss them cold days before the road signs
I really miss when I ain’t know which way I was supposed to head
And I was pressed because my shawty gave me cold signs
I was writing poems ’bout her, dawg, in study hall
And she was mad ’cause I never wanna show her off (Scared)
And every time she took her bra off my dick would get soft
I thought I had a problem, kept my head inside a pillow screaming
The track derails into some scratches and a vortex-trip-like disco percussion leading from the front – and Dom follows up with some introspection where he talks about not letting other dictating his fate. Joba ends this fantastic track with another Joba-esque deranged rap section, this time tinged with a bit of high as he talks about “sipping on my pain, smoking by my pain”.
DISTRICT is the track where Brockhampton puts up significant experimentation in their mix – with a lot of dissonant samples popping in and out in the mix and the instrumentation switching up in a couple of places. Joba’s energy meshes perfectly into this track. LOOPHOLE is a sample from an interview in 2016 where Dom talked about his experience with previous labels – with a string section as the instrumental backdrop – adding to the narrative of Dom’s hardships before he joined Brockhampton. The strings reappear again in TAPE, this time, a bit more muted and an IDM-inspired drum pattern shuffling in the instrumentation – here the members take turns to talk about their fears, but I’m not a big fan of the mechanical feel of the way the members take turns to rap, it doesn’t sound interesting and kind of stilted. J’OUVERT harkens back to the experimental production in DISTRICT, this time they focus more on the thickly textured bass – I enjoyed the instrumentation quite a lot. Joba and Merlyn kill it again with their delivery.
These next two tracks are great. SAN MARCOS (where Brockhampton hailed from) is yet another track that features the strings, this time, there’s no beat. After the boys finish up with their sentimentally delivered sections, an anthemic instrumental parade kicks in as a choir sings “I want more out of life than this”… that hit me with some goosebumps. And the sentimental tracks come one after the other – TONYA features some great synergy between the members against a warm, emotional piano piece. I loved bearface’s sing-rapping, Kevin’s section where he was describing his mood after the Ameer controversy broke out and Merlyn’s calm flow on this track. The album closes with FABRIC where the instrumentation is stripped down, and slathered with some trippy vocal deliveries. the track closing with Merlyn hinting that this album is the first part of their THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES trilogy.
That ends my review, pretty much. I don’t think this is the best album Brockhampton has put out, I still like Saturation 1 & 2 more than this one. But I definitely enjoyed most of the tracks, it’s great to see a group not turning formulaic and pop-rap oriented after a successful spree and I feel that they made a bold move by just putting this emotionally raw, experimental, and yet, mature release. I definitely look forward to the rest of the albums from this trilogy – or whatever they feel like doing.