By Jack Lopez
Brockhampton is rap’s first real boyband. While front running members like Kevin Abstract, Dom McLennon and Merlyn Wood take on vocal work, other members curate the music and video production, promotion and more. Last year, the group released three albums that were all met with high critical acclaim.
Brockhampton’s newest album titled, “iridescence,” made an immediate splash, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in September.
The album, which happens to be the band’s fourth in just over a year, comes following a dramatic summer that involved two canceled albums, the expulsion of Ameer Vann, one of the group’s lead vocalists, and the success of its own Beats 1 Radio show.
Production-wise, the album flows incredibly smoothly. Hemnani, the group’s in-house producer, proves his versatility with the ability to create an album full of beats that is starkly different to much of what the group has done before. Song transitions, particularly between the opening tracks “NEW ORLEANS” and “THUG LIFE,” are almost unnoticeable.
The album works better as one cohesive project rather than as a compilation of songs put together. It’s obvious that a lot of care was put into the sound design and album layout.
The group wanted the project to be recognizable to its fans while also establishing a new sound and direction. For the most part, “iridescence” succeeds. A lot of the grittier lines and flows left the group along with Vann, and other members were forced to step into different roles and evolve.
Bearface, a member who typically had only been used for interludes and album outros, is now featured more prominently. His artistic style is significantly different to Vann’s and it comes across noticeably. Tracks like “TONYA,” “SAN MARCOS” and “THUG LIFE” are used to showcase Bearface’s vocal range and the new direction that the group seems to be taking.
The album plays better as an entire piece of art, rather than a compilation of singles. Some songs are a bit harder to listen to out of the context of the album. Songs like “NEW ORLEANS” and “THUG LIFE” almost need to be played together due to how effective the transitions are. The songs on “iridescence” have completely different tonal vibes from the group’s previous work, and I view that as a good thing.
Having the ability to try different sounds and use so many different combinations of voices is what makes Brockhampton one of the most exciting modern groups out right now.
Each member of the boyband has their own standout moments. On “WEIGHT,” Abstract opens up about his insecurities and struggles coming to terms with his own sexuality. While rapping about being gay isn’t new to Abstract, this is the first time he shows such raw emotion about how he deals with his sexuality.
Wood and Champion are given an entire song, “WHERE THE CASH AT,” that plays off of each others’ energies. As two of the most eccentric members of the group, they carry a swelling that gives them an opportunity to shine.
McLennon proves once again to be the most technically gifted member of the band with his ability to deliver powerful lyrics in varying cadences on “NEW ORLEANS,” “TAPE” and “TONYA.”
JOBA has one of the best overall moments on the album with his rage-fueled verse on “J’OUVERT,” which is inspired by his frustration with how other people judge and perceive him.
Overall, this album wasn’t what I expected. “iridescence” hits on different tonal notes and provides a perspective into how the group will continue following the expulsion of Vann.
Artistic growth is a positive change, and I found it interesting to see how a band of this size would cope with the change in tone that it had to make.