The Brockhampton ethos is a bit torn between endearingly immature and just plain immature. America’s greatest boy band had an intentionally EPIC 2017 with their three album releases, one of which I especially enjoyed and reviewed, and between their social media presence and wild music videos they’ve become a cultural force. Having come together through a Kanye West Forum, the group is certainly a product of the internet so its sensible that they would be good at using the internet to replace a traditional infrastructure of PR and label to support them, but this begs the question of whether or not this open media landscape has produced a healthy system. Would Kevin Abstract be rapping about same sex attraction on RCA records right now if his group didn’t first prove themselves to be a consistently titanium brand throughout 2017? Likely no, however as their brand grows, it becomes a bit harder to decide if this is an apt “listen to the kids” moment or if the frenzy is approaching concerning levels.
Below is a tweet wherein Abstract encourages a fan to risk their job by offering discounts to costumers who stream their album–a part of the loosely organized twitter campaign to get the boys a number 1 album. Again, a hip hop group that emphasizes raw emotional honesty; has previously kicked out their member who was accused of abuse; and rarely falls into misogyny or other tropes of male-made, commercially successful music earning a number 1 album could be huge, but we live in a post-Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Kanye, and even Lil Uzi society. These rappers have their faults, Lamar has supported xxxtentacion and his “stretch-mark” line is certainly not the best example of male allyship, but he and the rest of these rappers have talked about inner strife, including depression, without making themselves into a vessel, to quote Mitski, confessing diary entries that make their twitter followers feel like they have a direct line into their psyche.
Of course I’m supposed to be a music journalist and I’m suppose to review the music not their personality, but by using social media in this fashion, the group, their personalities and their music are becoming harder and harder to separate.
Iridescence marks a more lush production pallet for the band. They still rely on big, gummy melodic devices to complement their harder raps–i.e. “New Orleans” which doesn’t sound too different from previous openers like “Heat” or “Boogie”–and more singalong moments to pin down their more somber ones, “San Marcos” being the most exacting example, but recording at Abbey Road with an actual budget certainly fleshes these moments out more.
The band has explored completely new territories as the project is intentionally inflected with European influences. “Weight” is the best example here as the rappers discuss the issues that they’ve faced in their come up with a 90s UK Garage breakdown in the middle. There are of course limits to everything and with this many members, they’ve sort of come into a very specific collection of roles and ideas. Sure, Bearface raps, but its middling and he reverts right back to his singing later on. Merlin does his wild flow alongside Joba, Kevin Abstract does his standard mix of autotune singing and autotune rapping, and Matt Champion honestly gets kind of lost in the mix. The album also has some underwhelming material in the middle, “District” is uninspired and haphazard, whereas “Vivid” is plain boring.
Brockhampton is probably an overall good, and “Weight” and “San Marcos” could be some of their best material yet, but the frenzied fandom makes them a bit unsustainable. They can only change it up so much if there fans are front and center on every step of the process.