By Daniel Brennan
After exploding onto the rap scene in 2017 with three of the most critically – acclaimed albums of the year in SATURATION I, II and III, along with their trademark music videos and their defining shunning of norms associated with a group that willingly calls itself a ‘boyband,’ 2018 has been a year of growth for BROCKHAMPTON. Former member Ameer Vann was kicked out in May following several emotional, physical and sexual abuse accusations that put their ongoing American tour and soon to be released fourth studio record, PUPPY, on hold.
Since then, PUPPY was completely scrapped, which led to fears that the group may not be putting out any new material any time soon, but the release of the singles ‘TONYA’, ‘1999 WILDFIRE’, ‘1998 TRUMAN’, and ‘1997 DIANA’ over recent months at least confirmed that the group would continue on.
On iridescence, BROCKHAMPTON silence any doubt that the loss of Ameer would influence their ability to produce some of the best rap music out there, as they come fighting back with a raw, visceral journey of learning to deal with the pressures of fame that have molded the band after the Ameer controversy. Mixed with some surprising experimental elements mixed into their consistently masterful production, headed up by members Romil, HK and Jabari, iridescence is most definitely a different listening experience to anything else the collective has put out to date.
From the outset, ‘NEW ORLEANS’ comes straight at you with a hard – hitting beat, stand – out verses from Dom McLennon, Joba and Merlyn Wood along with Kevin Abstract laying down a catchy hook, accompanied along with a surprise feature from Jaden Smith. The transition into the next track, the chiller RnB – style ‘THUG LIFE’ works brilliantly, with Bearface laying down some of his trademark excellent vocals.
The short but sweet ‘WHERE THE CASH AT’ showcases Merlyn’s ability to carry the majority of a song by himself, something that was rarely seen throughout any of the SATURATION trilogy as he lays down high-energy bars over a thumping bass line, but you can only be left wanting more as the track is just under two minutes in length.
On ‘WEIGHT’, they deliver one of their most emotionally – charged tracks, beginning with Kevin delivering one of the best verses of the year as he looks back over how much he battled with his sexuality in his youth, and the pressures of fame that came with the group being thrust into the spotlight after the Ameer controversy. This transitions into a high – tempo British drum and bass – type beat, perhaps a nod to the album being recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studio in London.
Both Dom and Joba produce stand – out verses of their own, with Dom speaking about his own struggles with fame and how it’s affected his relationships, and Joba mentioning using substance abuse to cope repeatedly to end the track. ‘WEIGHT’ is a song that encapsulates the group’s growth over the past few months, and one that goes down as both a turning point on this record and in their history as a group.
What follows on is some of the group’s finest work in the second half of the album, with ‘DISTRICT’ and ‘HONEY’ both featuring excellent beat switch – ups towards the end. ‘J’OUVERT’, one of the two singles released before the album again features another incredible verse from Joba, as he again unleashes a more unhinged version of himself, and firmly establishes himself as a focal point of nearly every single song where he features.
The penultimate track is the other previously released single ‘TONYA’, the first track they released post-Ameer. Kevin directly addresses how the controversy affected both him and his bandmates with another amazing verse, the standout lines being “My ghosts still haunt ya, my life is I, TONYA / A big – eyed monster, only face to conquer / I hated songs about fame cause that stuff meant nothin’ / Until them headlines came, then first flight I’m stuck in.” Merlyn’s verse to finish off the track is significant too, as instead of using his usual upbeat, ultra – energetic style, he uses a speaking tone and slows down, rapping about how his parents doubted him pursuing a career in music after dropping out of college; “Mommy said ‘your career ain’t gon’ last’.”
The fact ‘TONYA’ wasn’t the final song on this record did slightly disappoint me as ‘FABRIC’, the actual closer, was only mediocre, but the teaser at the end of the song suggesting that this album would be the first part of a new trilogy called The Best Years of Our Lives, redeems it somewhat.
iridescence is a statement from one of the most captivating groups in music today that they are here to stay, and that if anything, they’ve become even more complete as a unit in the nine months since the end of the SATURATION era.
Photo by Bending River (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tou_rHLcvS0) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons