Los Angeles hip-hop collective’s energy dwindles on new album
September 27, 2018
It’s tough when you’ve got big shoes to fill. It’s bound to be more frustrating when you’re the cobbler. On Sept. 21, America’s (self-proclaimed) favorite boy-band released their latest album, titled “iridescence.” The 15-track totem seems like an exhaustive endeavor. However, a release like this is just par for the course with BROCKHAMPTON, whose rocketship to stardom took off only two years ago.
In 2016, BROCKHAMPTON put out their first cohesive release by the name of “All American Trash.” It was preceded by one or two one-off drops—best described as ‘musical blueprints.’ These ground floor releases set an intriguing tone for the group. They broke genre barriers with a multiplicity of song styles and varied instrumentation. Their legions of members also provided some variety, developing—in some sense—a cast of characters for their ‘canon’ of music.
“All American Trash” piqued interest across the music scene, creating a hushed murmur amongst music lovers. It seemed that the format of groups like Odd Future would be reinvented by this group—creating, hopefully, a more widely accepted teen-oriented rap group with far less controversy. BROCKHAMPTON did just this.
On June 9, 2017, they released “SATURATION”—a 17-track masterpiece that proved just what a force they were. But they weren’t done. It only took two months for them to perform another miracle. They released “SATURATION II.” And only four months later, they completed the trilogy.
BROCKHAMPTON rocked the boat of the music industry in two big ways. First, in only seven months, they managed to release three complete albums. Not one of those releases had a track listing under 15 songs. Second, not only were they able to ‘saturate’ the industry so aggressively—they also did it with unparalleled style. Each of the “SATURATION” drops were a cohesive album—well considered from start to finish.
But what do you do next?
The timidly-stylized “iridescence” seems to be the answer to that question. It seems like BROCKHAMPTON isn’t a group that will pigeonhole itself. At least not yet. And what are they doing now? They’re trying like hell to keep growing.
It has been a tumultuous time for the group since their “SATURATION” trilogy was finalized. A totemic member, Ameer Vann, was ousted from the group over sexual misconduct allegations paired with some poor behavior within the group. The fallout from that was painful both for the group and their audience and it shows. The hole that Vann left behind was made cringingly obvious, as instrumentals would fill what was once his verse.
Being so central to the group’s dynamic and, in reality, their rebellious branding, Vann’s departure was—mincing no words—catastrophic. Their goals changed as a result of this.
At first, their next release was to be titled “PUPPY,” with producer Romil Hemnani’s smiling face for its artwork. Later it was retitled to fit the new mood of the album, with an all lowercase monicher.
Everything seemed to be stacked in their favor despite the group issues.
The fans had flocked, the cred was established, they signed a $15 million deal with RCA, they got the chance to record at Abbey Road and the music world was waiting. But, as we can only expect of this fickle universe, things went awry.
They regressed. They became lazily obsessed with production tricks they learned in making earlier tracks. For instance, their vocal effects on the new album are all too familiar—pitching voices up, making them warbly, deepening them—so it becomes less of a quirk and more of a crutch. Beats sounded far too similar, and everything felt, at best, disorganized.
Like I said—BROCKHAMPTON ran the risk of biting off more than they could chew with this album. Unfortunately, it’s quite a mouthful. I listened to the album in excess of three times. Each time, I found myself mistaking tracks for others, and losing interest nearly every five minutes. It’s not a terrible album by any extent. “iridescence” is chock full of grinders and hooks. But that’s just about all she wrote.
BROCKHAMPTON is brimming with potential and musical talent. Just as their personal struggles prove, even the high points of life can be peppered with turmoil and failure.
“iridescence” is flawed. But does it cause irreparable damage to BROCKHAMPTON and ruin their chance at redemption? Absolutely not.
Contact Noah Sonnenburg at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.