Brockhampton, the LA-based self-proclaimed boyband rose to prominence last year with the release of their Saturation trilogy. Their rise was meteoric and the collective that few people had even heard about transitioned into one of the most progressive and popular contemporary hip-hop groups out there.
What followed was a turbulent 2018 where among their newfound popularity, the group signed to major-label RCA, marking the end of their independent venture.
On a much darker note, Ameer Vann — one of the group’s core members — was accused of sexual assault and was subsequently jettisoned from the band. As a result, their newly completed album Puppy — which featured Vann — was scrapped. It was back to the drawing board for Brockhampton as their follow-up album went through a variety of name changes and was repeatedly postponed. Some doubted whether it would ever be released.
The wait is finally over.
Iridescence marks Brockhampton’s major label debut and it is decidedly their most daring and ambitious project to date. Recorded in a period of only 10 days in London’s famous Abbey Road Studios the album is a reflection on the group’s experiences in the past year and the struggles they faced coming to terms with their newfound fame.
Iridescence certainly deviates from the Saturation trilogy in terms of its general mood and production. Brockhampton’s boisterous, up-beat sound is still present on some of the more party-ready tracks such as J’Ouvert; however, ultimately the album is considerably more self-reflective and relies on the raw emotion each group member brings to the table.
The project starts off with the hard-hitting intro track, New Orleans, inspired by Lil Wayne’s song Fireman — one of the most iconic album openers in the hip-hop genre. Each member of Brockhampton comes in with some great bars on the back of a heavy beat and a variety of layered sound effects. Notably, Dom McLennon, riffs with some great lines right at the beginning, “I'm so accustomed to flames, I couldn't tell you what's fire, situation is dire, hear them calls from the choir.” The song exemplifies Brockhampton’s discordant approach to hip-hop as it lacks the genre’s distinctive hooks and instead allows each member to express their feelings on themes such as money, heritage and fame.
Tracks such as Thug Life and Something About Him contrast the opener with their softer sounds and larger focus on instrumentals. The latter track being a short and sweet tribute by Kevin Abstract — the group’s de-facto leader — to his long-term boyfriend.
Then there is the track Weight, perhaps the most beautiful song Brockhampton has ever released. Kevin Abstract’s verse in the beginning of the track is heart wrenching. He talks about his struggle handling expectations since becoming famous and coming to terms with his sexuality. The song continues with a transition into some fantastic dance beats on top of which Joba and Dom McLennon both share deeply personal verses talking about weight. It is all about coping with stress and pressure as the world pushes up on these kids who suddenly are the center of everything.
As in their previous releases in the Saturation trilogy, Brockhampton thrives through the individual talent and variety within the collective. Not only does each member contribute with contrasting vocals, they also differ in their personality and stories.
Job and Dom McLennon both standout as performers on this album and their outstanding performances fill the void left by Ameer Vann’s departure. This is especially evident on the track J’Ouvert, where Joba snaps with some angry bars, creating one of the most intense periods on the whole project. The song also showcases the group’s prowess when it comes to sampling as their creative use of Lavaman’s Doh Blame Meh effectively splits the heavier and more ominous verses.
One of the highlights on the last leg of the album comes in the form of the track San Marcos, an ode to where the group started. Singing against an instrumental backdrop, the auto-tuned vocals create a smooth sound as the group talks about the freedom they enjoyed when first starting out and their desire to begin anew.
One of the few critiques I have about this album is that the track listing was a bit sporadic and the sudden jumps between a hard hitting banger and a more intimate ballad can make it an emotionally jarring listen at times.
Ultimately, this album is biographic — it reflects on the success the group has achieved and provides a window into the realities of each group member’s life.
This group is rich and famous, yet they use this album to remind us they are still human.
In a genre that is diluted with songs about money and fame, few dare to be as candid about the subject as Brockhampton.
Favorite Tracks: Weight, San Marcos, Honey, J’Ouvert, Fabric Worst Tracks: Berlin
Steffen Holter is a Music Columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org