BROCKHAMPTON is a band that exists in an in-between. They are a musical superpower, with the ability to span multiple genres from mosh-ready tunes to stripped-back emotional songs to guitar riff-centered tracks to experimental trippy tracks. Are they a rap group? Technically, yes. Are they a boyband? Also yes. BROCKHAMPTON is a band that’s hard to define, and that’s part of the reason they’ve become so attractive to millenials who put less effort into forcing labels onto identities and people. BROCKHAMPTON defies your preconceptions- they’re a group of young people, from as close as Texas to as far as Ireland, living in a house together and creating a discography that’s as diverse as they are.
Go to a BROCKHAMPTON show, and you’ll see kid after kid clad in trendy outfits, waiting to see a boyband that makes them feel represented in a way they haven’t before. That’s part of the reason I’m such a big BROCKHAMPTON fan; it’s not often a 13-person group explodes onto the hip hop scene, creating an accepting community for young people discovering who they are.
BROCKHAMPTON has already had a crazy 2018 — their SATURATION trilogy blew up, getting the attention of major label RCA, who signed the band for $15 million in May 2018. Shortly after the deal was announced, it surfaced that previous member Ameer Vann was emotionally abusive and manipulative to previous partners. After announcing Vann was kicked out, BROCKHAMPTON went on a hiatus, going as a band to Hawaii and canceling their tour to “regroup”. BROCKHAMPTON reemerged in late June 2018, dropping three singles 1997 DIANA, 1998 TRUMAN, and 1999 WILDFIRE. In August 2018, the band announced the release of their fourth album iridescence. The album, recorded in ten days at Abbey Road Studios in London, debuted at #1 in the US after its release on September 21, 2018.
After sitting with this album for a little over a week, I’ve realized it is my favorite BROCKHAMPTON record thus far. It’s experimental and untraditional in a way BROCKHAMPTON has never been before, which makes listening to this album an experience. The lyrics go from celebratory to heartbreaking, and the album has a song for every mood: I can cry, mosh, party, and chill to this album — it’s versatile in a way that many hiphop albums are not.
As much as I am a fan of this album, I do have trouble viewing it as a complete work instead of individual songs. Although it has common themes among verses (loneliness, mental illness, drug addiction, fame), the beats are wildly different from one to the next — it turns from WEIGHT, a stripped back, introspective ballad, to DISTRICT, which is a mosh-ready song. The album feels like a mishmash of ideas, and part of this is because it is a mishmash of ideas. When you have 13 people working on one album, the album will showcase each person’s different style because everyone brings something different to the table. Also, the purpose of this album feels different than the SATURATION trilogy; the trilogy was more centered around story lines, whereas this album is a form of “therapy” for the band. You can feel the therapy within this album. It’s like BROCKHAMPTON put everything out on the table at once, said “this is what we’re going through”, and left the fans there to digest it. You can tell BROCKHAMPTON made iridescence in a limited time frame, and that’s not a complaint- it’s not the most “together” album ever, but I think that’s what makes it special. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s unapologetic. It’s 13 people sitting in a room, processing what they all have going on in their heads, and yeah, maybe it is a little bit of a mishmash, but I’d rather a mishmashed album than an industry-diluted one.
As the opener to iridescence, this song hits hard. The beat is explosive. this is one of those songs I’m scared of playing too loud in case it blows my speakers out because it goes that hard. One of the highlights of this song is the surprise feature from Jaden Smith on the last chorus: “Tell ’em boys, don’t run from us/I been down too long, cousin/I been down too long, brother/Tell the world, I ain’t scared of nothing/Tell the world, I ain’t scared of jumping”.
First of all, the transition between NEW ORLEANS and this song is one of the best ever made. Second, this song is like an antithesis to the previous song: it’s calmer, and feels more personal with chilling vocals from bearface and an autotuned verse from Dom McLennon about his depression. The best part of this song though is still that transition (that’s not a roast of this song, the transition is just that good).
The refrain to this song is Instagram-caption ready: “She said ‘Baby boy, why you looking grimy as shit?’”. The beat is electric, with samples of a car accelerating mixing with intense bass to make something beautiful.
SOMETHING ABOUT HIM
This song consists of Kevin Abstract’s autotuned voice crooning over a smooth beat about his boyfriend, Jaden Walker: “There’s something about him/Yeah, his attitude is like magic /There’s something about him/I know I got to have it”. The song is so ridiculously cute — it’s not over-mushy in the way a lot of love songs can be, but it’s still clear that Abstract is head over heels, and wow, it’s adorable.
WHERE THE CASH AT
The beat of this song is pulsating, and the combination of it with verses by Matt Champion and Merlyn Wood make this short song (it’s just under two minutes) explosive. It’s likely this track is a response to BROCKHAMPTON’s recent $15 million deal, with Merlyn rapping: “Where the cash at? Used to ask that” as a potential reference to the band’s money problems in the past.
If there’s one song that’s gotten the most media coverage thus far, it’s this one. It’s easy to see why; the song begins with an introspective, stripped back verse from Kevin Abstract where he discusses insecurity, a friend’s self-harm, fame, and his sexuality: “I know some n****s should stop hitting my phone whenever they needing money or favors done/’Cause I’m still worried ’bout when Ashlan finna put the razor down/So I don’t really give a fuck about what story they done spun”. The rest of the song also features verses from McLennon and JOBA, both personal and raw, making this song one the most emotional and best on the album.
One of the best things about BROCKHAMPTON is the fact that they can make a hype song, but still have deep and emotional lyrics. DISTRICT is a perfect example of this: the beat is aggressive, but has verses about loneliness, materialism, and depression; “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m still depressed/At war with my conscience, paranoid, can’t find that shit”, raps JOBA.
If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear about BROCKHAMPTON, it’s that they’re not doing this for the fame (in fact, they hate the concept of fame). This interlude is a testament to that: it samples a 2016 interview with rap icon Cam’ron talking about being, essentially, screwed over by major labels. The interesting part is iridescence is BROCKHAMPTON’s first album since signing to RCA (a major label).
I see you, BROCKHAMPTON.
Abstract delivers another stand out, WEIGHT-esque verse on this track, talking about everything from male strippers to his mom to his health. Another highlight is Matt Champion’s verse, that begins with the hard-hitting: “I’m afraid to share the bed, what if she want money later?/Like she got laid off, uh, hit my lawyer for some paper”. The beat is genius — it feels military-esque, but is also orchestral, making an interesting dynamic.
It wouldn’t be a review of this song if I didn’t focus on JOBA. The notoriously creative and wild member delivers one of his best verses yet: he touches on mental illness, drug addiction, and fame in a fast 44 seconds (and, in my opinion, some of the best 44 seconds on the album). The rest of the song is incredible as well — this is probably the hypest, craziest song on the record.
Real confidence is sampling your own song, and that’s what BROCKHAMPTON does here with their sample of their track BUMP at the end of this song. Another iconic sample is their use of just the word “yes” from Beyoncé’s 2011 song Dance For You in a long, trippy breakdown. This song is severely underrated. The beat feels celestial at times, and is one of the most creative ones on the album.
This song starts with a beautiful piano sequence, making you think it’s going to be a slower song, but then immediately dives into a mosh-ready beat and impressive Matt Champion verse. This is personally one of my favorites on the album, and I know it’ll be that one song I play when I get the aux at parties.
I can’t describe this song better than what Kevin Abstract tweeted: “san marcos the perfect back to school song goin to a football game by yaself type song and it’s raining yea”. This song feels like sitting in a sunny field when you’re feeling especially sad. Listen. You’ll get what Abstract and I mean.
BROCKHAMPTON debuted a working version of this song on the June 20th episode of The Tonight Show, and it became a fan favorite. TONYA is BROCKHAMPTON at their best: stripped back, raw, delivering emotional and reflective verses with a chorus from the talented Ryan Beatty and serpentwithfeet: “and I’ve been feelin’ like I don’t matter how I used to”. If you need to cry, this is the song to do it to.
As the closure to this whirlwind album, FABRIC ties together the best parts of iridescence. It features a personal verse from Kevin Abstract, an autoned refrain over an orchestral beat, and the end launches into an explosion of sirens, vocals from Abstract, and a pulsating beat that breaks into a marching band-esque ending that makes the album feel complete. Finishing the song is multiple members speaking: “It’s the best years of our lives, motherfucker/You are now about to experience/These are the best years of our lives”, as a reference to the fact that iridescence is the first album of the new BROCKHAMPTON trilogy, The Best Years of Our Lives.