CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts

BROCKHAMPTON doubles down on excellence with ‘SATURATION II’

BROCKHAMPTON has done it once again, proving their consistency with a record more experimental, more spellbinding, and ultimately, better than its predecessor.

Constructed over the course of a mere 15 weeks, “SATURATION II” has managed to expand upon what made the original so fascinating, as well as driving BROCKHAMPTON’s sound in a truly interesting and surprising direction.

Only days after the release of their debut album, “SATURATION,” BROCKHAMPTON announced their intentions of releasing a second album by the end of summer. I was originally worried by the quick turnover rate, however I saw it as a good opportunity for the group to prove themselves and that they did. The album feels incredibly deliberate, especially with the end of summer release date, providing the perfect back-to-school soundtrack for the bands of weirdos, misfits and nonconformists that BROCKHAMPTON targets.

This time, BROCKHAMPTON changes its feel, inheriting a foreign vibe, with a distinct influence from Egyptian and Spanish music. “SATURATION II” is a much riskier project with seemingly odd instrumental combinations that have not been frequently used in hip-hop, however by introducing the culture to new sounds, it benefits and enriches hip-hop culture as a whole, using synths, saxophones, chimes, sitars, guitars, basses, drums, and voices in a highly unorthodox fashion.

Some of the biggest problems facing BROCKHAMPTON’s past album were the fact that certain members seemed to retread similar material from song to song, however that changes with “SATURATION II” with Ameer Vann tackling more personal subject matter than simply drug-slinging, as well as Merlyn Wood allowing listeners to get a closer look into what the group has done for him. Kevin Abstract, BROCKHAMPTON’s leader, also takes the backseat, staying on hooks but letting some of the other members of the group shine a bit more.

The project begins with the bouncy banger “GUMMY,” an earworm of a song that delivers some of Abstract’s best verses to date and an intoxicating drone in the latter half that leads to an epic musical breakdown.

This then flows into “QUEER,” with a hypnotizing blast of sonic bliss, an exhilarating drum pattern, heavy basses booming, and Matt Champion’s charismatic pre-chorus. Champion leads into an astounding beat change, making the song feel as if it is a “BUMP’ part two, once again with Kevin producing a slower chorus and coming through with victorian piano chords, breaking the monotony.

“JELLO” comes with a simple musical refrain, and while it is one of the weaker songs on the album, it still is tremendously interesting with the production building upon itself and the high-pitched verses from the collective.

Joba’s vocals progress perfectly into the next song, “TEETH,” a largely acapella track with sparse bass and a sole verse from Vann, in which he spits bars highlighting his frustration and pride, that happen to be some of the best lines he’s delivered in his musical career.

Then comes “SWAMP,” a playful, energetic track showcasing Abstract’s unassailable talent at crafting hooks and the contrasting charisma between him and Champion. The production comes through with bubbly drums and an airy synth lead.

“TOKYO” is without a doubt one of the best songs BROCKHAMPTON’s released, beginning with quick, precise vocals from Joba and leading into a funky, jazz saxophone riff with Abstract singing an irresistible chorus over it.

Then comes “JESUS,” a solo Abstract verse with Bearface singing in the latter half. Abstract gets personal and intimate, describing a past toxic relationship, while Bearface conveys the longing that Abstract has for said relationship, all over the course of simple piano progression.

While “CHICK” is easily the worst song on the album, it also holds some of the most amusing verses from each member, whether it be Matt Champion speaking of his physical shortcomings, Dom McLennon showing pride in his race, or Ameer Vann addressing his most prolific critique, there is an extensive amount of substance to the lyrics in the track.

“JUNKY” far exceeds this track, giving an introspective look into Abstract and then immediately after, transporting you into a different world with a rush of sound and emotion. A haunting guitar looms in the background as Merlyn Wood, Joba, Matt Champion, and Dom McLennon eviscerate their verses.

With “FIGHT,” Vann fully steps outside of his box, detailing past experiences with racism, once again delivering one of the group’s best verses. The song has one of the most gratifying escalations on the album, with an immense buildup and release with a verse from Abstract.

“SWEET” is one of the highlights of the album with a memorable, confident hook and an equally memorable flow from McLennon. The track has a genuine old school vibe beginning with a simple, yet groovy bassline and a vocal synth providing smooth background tones.

“GAMBA” sounds like it could be a track off “808s and Heartbreaks,” with its lyrics and production being quite stirring and passionate, especially with Bearface’s silky, boyband-ish vocals lying over the end of the track.

“SUNNY” begins on a heart-warming note with Merlyn Wood embracing his inner wolf and unleashing howls over quite possibly the waviest guitar you will ever hear, with uplifting, soul-pleasing, ethereal vocals on top of all of it.

And then the album comes to an end with yet another power ballad from Bearface, however “SUMMER” far outdoes the previous album’s closer “WASTE” with a simple chorus conveying the nostalgia and sadness of a summer come and gone. Fully embracing itself with a ’80s guitar solo, “SUMMER” especially resonated with me after a long, particularly tumultuous summer of my own and the track evoked such sentiment, that it damn near made my ears tear up.

With such a wide range of music BROCKHAMPTON was able to up the ante and escalate what they had done in the album’s predecessor.

“SATURATION II” was able to better utilize BROCKHAMPTON’s  members and, more specifically, their strengths to create a truly different sound, adding their own flair, and crafting what I believe to be a future cult classic and current masterpiece. With the recent announcement of the final installment of the “SATURATION” trilogy coming by the end of the year, I have no doubt in my mind that BROCKHAMPTON will absolutely dominate the hip-hop game in 2017 and for many years beyond that.

BEST TRACKS: “QUEER,” “TOKYO,” “JUNKY,” “SWAMP,” “FIGHT,” “GUMMY,” “SWEET,” “TEETH,” and “JESUS”

WORST TRACKS: “CHICK” and “GAMBA”

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