For the first time in 2021, we finally have an album review and will be more consistent in putting them out. Fortunately, there’s no better musical group to kick off these reviews than the self-proclaimed “best boy band since One Direction” BROCKHAMPTON.
This is the sixth studio album from the Corpus Christi, Texas-based group, who have grown into one of the most beloved acts in hip-hop today since exploding onto the scene in 2017 with their near-perfect trilogy series Saturation. It’s one thing to drop three albums in a short amount of time and they all sound like they could fit into the same record, but what makes all three Saturation albums as great as they are is the unique character of each.
The first was their true introduction. They needed to make a statement, which is why you get absolute, in-your-face bangers like “HEAT” and “BUMP.” The sequel solidified the group as top-notch with bop after bop thrown at us. I mean like some of the tracks on here: “GUMMY”, “QUEER”, “SWEET”, “TOKYO”, “SWAMP”.
Saturation III toned it back a bit as the group went for an alternative R&B mood to show their diversity and it pays off with soon-to-be classics like “BLEACH”(obviously), “ZIPPER” and “RENTAL.”
However, in 2018, the group took a turn for the worst as one of the lead voices of the group, Ameer Vann, was removed from the group after accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse. Now, how does a group recover from having, literally the face of the Saturation trilogy, removed from the group? Well, they struggled as iridescence was their first album without Vann. While still being a good record, you could tell it was hard for them to find that glue of the group. Everyone in the group gets their chance to shine on the record, but no one really jumped off with a wow factor.
If iridescence served as the epilogue to that era for BROCKHAMPTON, Ginger was the opening chapter to the group’s new era. It was the closure they needed to officially move on from Vann and, arguably, it was the group’s most-emotionally heavy work to date. However, that’s before ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE dropped Friday.
Based on the two lead singles to this record, you wouldn’t expect the emotional potency that was to come from this album.
“BUZZCUT” kicks us off with this eccentric, trippy vibe with Kevin Abstract giving us one of his best verses to date. His yelling style on this track is the best we’ve heard him and it blends perfectly with the featured spot from Danny Brown, who can’t seem to do wrong.
The other single “COUNT ON ME” is more chilled out and mellow with a surprise spot from A$AP Rocky. I love the layered vocals on the hook from Ryan Beatty and, apparently, Shawn Mendes. It’s a fun, but way too short R&B banger.
It took a couple listens for “CHAIN ON” to grow on me. I love JPEGMAFIA’s feature on there as throws some pro wrestling references on there as he compares his miniscule status in rap to that of Maven, a failed WWE superstar, but with the personality of Raven, a popular wrestler for the now-defunct ECW. I found Kevin’s vocals on here to be a bit flat, but Peggy and Dom McLennon really come through.
I don’t mind “BANKROLL.” A$AP Ferg goes pretty hard in the opening verse, but the instrumental is a little too minimal and just not up to par compared to the rest of the record.
It’s at this point that we get to the emotional and sentimental notes of the album as track No. 5 is the first of a two-part track “THE LIGHT.” The track is a tribute to Joba’s late father who committed suicide at home. Part one of the song has an early-2000’s Eminem vibe to it. I’m talking ruthless and dark Eminem with the haunting guitar riffs. It definitely sounds like the group took inspiration from a Marshall Mathers LP or Slim Shady LP.
Following this, the group goes full East Coast, boom-bap on “WINDOWS.” Everyone in the group gets a go here and it will probably go as one of the underappreciated tracks on the album. Specifically, I was blown away by Beatty’s singing on the bridge later in the song.
“I’LL TAKE YOU ON” and “OLD NEWS” didn’t really move the needle all that much for me. The former being a straightforward, sensual R&B song and “OLD NEWS” just sees everyone at their lowest on this album. There’s a lot of vocal manipulations. It’s just a nothing track, but you’ll have those on even the best of albums.
The good news is that BROCKHAMPTON finishes on high notes with the final five tracks all being awesome.
“WHAT’S THE OCCASION?” has an amazing guitar riff that comes off a rousing buildup from Joba. There’s also a subtle G-funk synth in the background that adds to the slick layering on this track.
Next up, we have “WHEN I BALL”, a song that has the group reminisce on their childhood, whether it be the good or bad memories. McLennon talks about how family members being incarcerated affected him and the conversations he had with his mother about it. There’s a line in here where he was told his uncles were on vacation for years, but “when they came back, they needed clothes, and had no souvenirs.”
Matt Champion lists the handful of challenges in the relationships with his family members. The hook on here is very nostalgic. It honestly reminds me of a song you would sing in front of parents if you were in kindergarten or the first grade. “You always used to tell me. I could be anything I wanna be But it’s hard to see, it’s hard to be.”
I’m going to have to go through BROCKHAMPTON’s discography some time soon, but “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY” might be one of the group’s best. It’s just a crazy fun song with those G-funk synths showing up heavy. Kevin Abstract talks about social issues and correlates them to his personal life as he is a Black and gay man in the United States. Champion and Joba offer their takes on paranoia in the track.
To some, “DEAR LORD” may seem like an interlude, but it’s definitely a gut punch as the group essentially prays and sings their butt off, asking for God to look out for Joba and help him through these dark times of losing his father so tragically. Bearface absolutely kills it on the track.
I’m usually a crier when visually seeing something sad or heartbroken on TV or in film, but the closing track, which is the second part of “THE LIGHT” is a lot to take in. Joba directly addresses his father. He’s confused, sad and angry, but still loves his father and misses him dearly. This line, specifically, caught my attention: “What’s the use? I could use you ‘cause I’m scared as fuck. Tuck me in, always young enough to feel loved and share some, are you lookin’ down? And a child reachin’ out, brittle bone, crying now.”
The background vocals are beautiful. It’s just an incredibly heavy track and a perfect closer to another fantastic record in BROCKHAMPTON’s discography.
This latest album has a little bit of everything. It’s got absolute bangers, slick R&B tracks and at the middle, an emotional trip that allows each member of the group to be open and vulnerable with us. It’s a perfect combination of everything that has made BROCKHAMPTON enjoyable to date.
Richest Tracks: “BUZZCUT”, “CHAIN ON”, “COUNT ON ME”, “THE LIGHT”, “WINDOWS”, “WHAT’S THE OCCASION?”, “WHEN I BALL”, “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY”, “DEAR LORD”, “THE LIGHT PT. II”
Worst Track: “OLD NEWS”
LISTEN TO THE ALBUM