BROCKHAMPTON’s debut studio album showcases the Los Angeles-based rap group’s unbelievable chemistry, unabashed versatility, and undeniable talent.
BROCKHAMPTON is the self-proclaimed “Internet’s First Boy Band,” all 15 members having met on the thriving hip-hop forum “KanyeToThe.” Flash forward five years and the group’s members all live together in a creative sanctuary in Van Nuys, where “SATURATION” was incubated and cultivated.
The internet’s wide-ranging diversity is personified in the collective, with members of various racial background and sexual orientation composing the group and offering their perspectives, creating a truly unique vision.
BROCKHAMPTON has taken modern hip hop and turned it on its head through its combination of old and new sounds notoriously affiliated with the West Coast. The collective clearly draws inspiration from their predecessors with the industrial drone of Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” the spacey synths of Odd Future and the emotional vulnerability of 2Pac’s “Ghetto Gospel.”
However there is also influence from Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” with pitch experimentation and an innovative use of autotune. Now, any average group could take these sounds, mash them together, and create a hodgepodge of an album, however BROCKHAMPTON is able to take these elements, mix them and actually build upon them, creating a rare sound exclusive to them.
Over the course of the 17-track album, every member of the group displays their charisma and personality, clearly distinguishing themselves, whether it be through tone or lyrical content.
Ameer Vann, the 20-year-old soul of the group, drops bars overflowing with swagger and laced with drug references accompanied by a fluid flow and one of the sleekest voices since Tyler, The Creator. Vann’s lyrics can become slightly monotonous over time, mostly dealing with the tribulations of drug slinging, but nevertheless entertaining simply because of how great his performances on each track are.
Contrasting Vann is Merlyn Wood, clearly the strangest of the group. Wood offers a change of pace, differing from the others greatly and adding verses filled with raw eccentricity, slurring, and sometimes even howling.
Then there is Dom McLennon, throwing lyrical haymakers left and right, consistently dishing out explosive, honest, and personal lines in the guise of a relaxed flow, however he shows versatility, able to snap on tracks like “BUMP” and “HEAT.”
Similarly vocalist and producer, Joba, can bring ethereal, gentle hooks (“FACE”) or rage-filled screams (“HEAT”). The quality of the mix is also notable and credited to Joba.
Next is Matt Champion whose style is personified as incredibly clean, precise, and effortless. His deadpan delivery infuses a punk-rock attitude to every song and gives the tracks a straightforward, impartial flair.
Finally there is BROCKHAMPTON’s founder and leader, Kevin Abstract, who is quite frankly a hook machine, inventively using autotune and pitch changes, as well as a sharp wit, to craft hooks that will echo in your mind for days to come.
The production by Hemnani, McLennon, Joba, Bearface, Q3, and Ontenient, is top-tier, ranging from furious bangers to slick anthems to passionate ballads and excelling in each one. Songs like “GOLD” showcase the group’s hit-making capabilities, while “2PAC” and “WASTE” display their ability to create powerful, sensitive, R&B ballads inspired by past hip-hop legends. “MILK” is a clear standout on the album– an anthem expressing incredibly human emotions of self-consciousness, loneliness, gratitude, self-acceptance, and ultimately self-improvement.
The album also includes some astounding beat changes, subverting one’s expectations and allowing the production team to flex their muscles. For example, in “SWIM” when the drums and horns blare in, adding to the warm guitar chords and synth or the switch up in “BUMP” transitioning from Wood’s distorted, coarse voice to a rather delicate hook by Abstract.
One of the greatest feats of “SATURATION” is its ability to succeed in multiple realms, bringing creativity to “soft” and “hard” music, however the transitions between songs can often be a bit jarring because of it.
The album is full of stunning songs but its only problem is tying these songs together and making it cohesive– making it flow. For instance, the transition between “FAKE” and “BANK,” “SWIM” and “BUMP,” and “BUMP” and “CASH.” This could be very easily fixed by moving some tracks around, however for this to be the album’s biggest flaw is quite astounding.
In a year full of remarkable breakthroughs in hip-hop music, “SATURATION” not only stands as one of the year’s best hip-hop albums, but one of the year’s best albums. Mark my words, BROCKHAMPTON will be an integral part of hip-hop’s progression in the years to come.
Best Tracks: “MILK,” “GOLD,” “HEAT,” “BUMP,” and “FAKE.”
Worst Track: “BANK.”