Brockhampton-Saturation: ALBUM REVIEW

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.

-Donovan Burtan



Tyler, the Creator-Scum Fuck Flower Boy: ALBUM REVIEW

I haven’t been keeping up with the writing but I’m working on it.


Tyler, the Creator’s persona has yielded an insurmountable amount of reactions since his come up as the quasi-ring leader of Odd Future. His lyrics have been gross and his sonic decisions jarring.  Some have accepted his cringe-worthy lines as artistic absurdity others have written off everything he’s ever said as vile because of the more vicious and perverse lines.At the end of the day, there’s certainly a long history of bad decisions, but a reading of his career as completely free of substance would be misled.

“Scum Fuck Flower Boy” is a culmination of Tyler’s past ideas, all placed through a lens completely him while also grown-up, mature, and more self-critical than ever.  The sprawling jazz of tunes like “Fucking Young” has been given concrete song form; the relentless energy of “Yonkers” has found a newfound lushness.  The album strikes a new chord in a way that earnest past listeners would find logical.

“Pothole” and “911/Mr. Lonely” delver the lyrical crux of the work.  On the former, Tyler speaks about a romantic relationship with an older man who buys him cars. Alongside lines about his desire but inability to lead a normal life with kids and a wife, the cars become a symbol of his closeted queerness, fame, and wealth.  Rather than going to prom with his friends, he’s famous and wealthy.  Rather than marrying a woman and starting the “normal” societal life, he’s seeing someone of a different age who buys him things.

On “Mr. Lonely,” Tyler speaks about his antics, which are deemed a cover for his underlying loneliness.  Taking into consideration the borderline existential questions that open the work (i.e. “How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive?/How much drive can I have ’til I run out of road?”), the theme of material meaningless and emotional disconnect finds rooting in everything Tyler says throughout.

“Garden Shed” dives a bit deeper into how being in the closet can drive his loneliness.  Then, “Boredom” follows with knee-jerk lashing out against his friends: “My friends suck, fuck ’em, I’m over ’em” amongst words about how boredom is his “new best friend.”  Again, to bring it back to the opening: “and if I die and don’t come back who’s gonna know,” Tyler feels like he can’t connect with anyone in a healthy way and desperately looks for a new material thing or artistic endeavor to fill the void—it’s a serious look at who he is.

Sonically, the work is cohesive as all hell, despite instances that hearken back to days of Tyler old (i.e “Who Dat Boi” and “I Ain’t Got Time”). This is due in part to the consistent tone color. Rather than shifts from Death Grips-ian loudness wars to sparse trumpet, the lush, classroom-orchestral backdrop is maintained as deep trap bass comes in for the fist-to-the-face moments and half spoken hooks enter elsewhere alongside jazz-induced chords and synths.

Speaking of hooks—they’re all amazing—indicative of Tyler’s commitment to solid song-form.  “I feel like glitterrrrr;” “find some time, find some time to do something;” “take me back to November.”  It sounds like he spent time crafting the catchy parts and the wordy parts of each song on the project, making for plenty of head nodding verses and shout-able choruses.

“Scum Fuck Flower Boy” certainly showcases new sides of Tyler with lyrical focus and sonic cohesion, but unlike say Childish Gambino’s work on “Awaken! My Love” it’s not an artistic reset button.  Perhaps it’s best summed up with the line “Tell these black kids they can be who they are/die your hair blue shit I’ll do it too” the direct sociological point about how black teens are only allowed to act a certain way wouldn’t have happened in 2011, but “shit I’ll do it too” is as textbook Tyler, the Creator as it gets.

-Donovan Burtan