After waiting with bated breath, the Texas based hip-hop boy band Brockhampton has made their return with their fourth album (and the first in a new trilogy) iridescence.
Of course, it wasn’t that long of a wait. It’s only been nine months since they completed their Saturation trilogy, it’s title reflecting their strategy of saturating the hip-hop market with their music. Indeed, Brockhampton had done the near impossible task of creating three hardocore hip-hop pop-rap hybrid full-length studio albums within a year. This strategy won them an incredible amount of success, and for their troubles they landed a multi-million dollar record deal.
However, this incredible level of success and popularity was jeopardized by the sexual assault allegations that surrounded principal member Ameer Vann, who had been with the group ever since its inception. Vann was fired not long after, leaving the group reeling and their tour cancelled. There was rising speculation amongst fans that Brockhampton would split up due to the emotional weight of the entire situation.
Fortunately, however, this did not occur. Brockhampton took time to recover in Hawaii, made their television debut on the Jimmy Fallon Show in June, and presented their reflection on the situation in the form of “Tonya,” an incredibly emotional and moody piano ballad that would later appear on this album.
The album finally dropped on Sept. 21, and the band’s style took on an industrial and experimental angle. The production got colder, the beats got meaner and harder and the lyrics got darker. This can be heard on the first track “New Orleans,” featuring classic trap triplets, with rattling subbasses and harsh synth notes over it. It’s an incredibly boastful track, with each member flexing their lyrical and vocal talent, sounding more aggressive than they did on their previous albums.
However, the next track, “Thug Life,” also shows that they can still write a great pop tune, featuring the London Community and Gospel Choir laying out an incredibly sweet melody with an even sweeter piano lead. Dom McLennon takes the lead here, talking about his depression and comparing it to an “uninvited guest I’m always excepting.”
“Berlin” is another experimental track, with the team’s production talent going on full display here. It’s reminiscent of the grimy experimental hip-hop that underground god Lil Ugly Mane popularised, with heavily manipulated vocals, massive bass tones transforming into noise, and lyrics referencing gang warfare and violence.
After a few interludes, we get the incredible track “Weight.” It opens with band leader Kevin Abstract rapping over a lush string arrangement, expressing his concern with the mental health of the band members and the struggles that he had with accepting his homosexuality. It then transforms into a neck-breaking drum-’n’-bass track with Joba briefly rapping over it, before leading into a verse by McLennon. It’s just a great track that shows the sonic breadth and the adventurous nature of the group.
“District” comes next; it’s similar to the opening track being incredibly dissonant with a harsh synth tone running through it. Joba wins the “line of the album” award with the darkly hilarious cry of “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m still depressed (Damn, damn)/At war with my conscience, paranoid, can’t find that s**t.”
After the jazzy confessional “Tape,” we get the scathing climax “J’ourvert.” A playful, carnival beat plays over the track, yet the content itself is anything but. Joba steals the spotlight on this track, burying anyone who thinks they understand what it’s like to acquire fame so quickly or what they think they know of the “Ameer Situation.” Joba is screaming at the top of his lungs, “F**k what you think, and f**k what you heard/I feel betrayed, you can keep the praise.” Merlyn Wood also shares the spotlight, going into the same pitfalls of fame as well as touching on his pride for his Ghanan heritage.
Unfortunately, this track is the climax for a reason; the next few songs seem to fizzle out as the album hits it’s fifty minute run time. They’re passable, good even, but they don’t live up to the hype and power of “J’ouvert.”
Overall, this album was pretty good, but it’s too early to say that it’s great. While the tracks are solid overall, only a few of them are truly incredible in my book. It’s the first album of the new trilogy, and only the release of the remaining albums would clear up where it lies. It’s fascinating to hear their sound go in a different direction, I can’t wait to see them perfect it on their later albums.