Having all just moved to Cali and made their first full-fledged statement in two weeks of vigorous recording sessions, Brockhampton look poised to take over the underground on the first installment of the “Saturation” series. The group is an impeccable fusion of hip hop’s past and its current moment with a hybridization of pure R&B, biting bars, and all the crawl spaces between. A similar level of eclecticism is found in the production, which incorporates plenty of bubbling distortion and a magical lushness within the generally sparse landscape. It’s an album that seems to reach both poles in many categories while also using the chemistry and love shared by the members as a spring board to overarching cohesion.
Deep in the track-list, “BUMP” perhaps sums up the group’s emotional depth in the most concise way. Having heard some mean stuff on “HEAT” (I’LL BREAK YOUR KNECK SO YOU CAN WATCH YOUR BACK) and blunt, dirty lines like “Anthony Hopkins I’m eatin’ it raw,” the big, angry verse that opens (“I just want that bump bump in my trunk”) gives the listener an expectation of more boisterous, crazed-eye rapping, but then the hook drastically switches it up with earnest soul singing out in open space.
The lyrics make sense of it all, by implying that the group is having fun with their youth with all these wild experiences, while also showcasing a maturity that inspires them for the future: “when this ends at least I have a reason to live.” In essence, this is what the group is all about.
Although a bit overly direct, “MILK” also serves as a mission statement type track with the relatable hook: “I gotta get better at being me.” Again, there’s a lot of self-awareness as the group speaks about the goals of young adulthood as they struggle through the ups and downs.
Besides the moments of specifying their trademark, Brockhampton adds depth to their characters with tracks dedicated to smaller pieces of life’s journey. “BOYS” speaks a little bit about how important a group of friends can be to mental health (amongst other topics… “y’all say you got bitches but your bitches make my dick soft”), whereas “FAKE” speaks about how peers can inspire us to fall into our rut and repress certain feelings.
The hooks and studio magic add a sense of sparkle with plenty of catchy moments and small details setting the group apart from the rest of the crowd. There’s the smooth-as-silk “keep a gold chain on my neck, fly as a jet, boy better treat me with respect” of “GOLD;” or the ice-cold “tell me what you’re waiting for” on “FACE.” The group’s melodic decisions hold as much weight as the rap brilliance: “you can’t take black folks home, your parents racist, you said they hate me, well I love them.” Add in the funky compression on the drums and the swirls of vocal effect, and the project rounds out to innovation and talent on all fronts.
Most importantly, Brockhampton aren’t shy. They’ll take queerness in hip-hop and rap-singing autotune head-on with an ease of execution making every move they make believable. Watching a video is watching the misfits you want to root living life fearlessly like they’re about to change the world or something.