Brockhampton is a self-described “boyband” of Texan misfit-musicians — lead and founded by the openly gay Kevin Abstract — who made waves in the independent hip-hop scene last year for their Saturation album series. The trilogy found the right balance of hard-hitting rap, tender love ballads, and experimental R&B, while also presenting a perspective that’s welcoming to all demographics. It’s been hard not to root for the forward-thinking group, and their major label debut, Iridescence, features an even more excitingly unique blend of different genres, across a varied selection of bombastic instrumentals — and yet, something is strangely off here. There’s a shift in the balance of what’s been a pretty perfect formula up until this point, possibly traceable to losing member Ameer Vann — the group’s best lyricist, and Abstract’s former right-hand man. Nobody else in the group quite matches Vann’s deadpan wit, and many members come up with groan-worthy one-liners (“If Jesus was a pop star, would he break the bank?”) or bars about What Really Matters in this world (“Money walk and money talk, but money no make comfortable / Big-ass house and big-ass car don’t add up when you die alone”).
The production as well has lost some of its nuance — and it feels like it should be emphasized just how loud of an album Iridescence can be at times. The heavily womping bass-line of “Where the Cash At” is one example; the low-end drowns-out Merlyn Wood’s animated intro, and proceeds to become monotonously irritating over even the track’s two-minute duration. Likewise, the song “Berlin” is so distorted-sounding that it comes off like an annoying-amateurish version of Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” The most interesting sonic ideas here show up on less conventional tracks, like “Honey,” which climaxes with wailing police sirens crashing into Abstract’s pitched-up vocals, creating a brief moment of mania. The same vocal effects are used on Iridescence’s closing track, “Fabric,” as a repeated mantra (“You don’t understand why I can’t get up and shout”) slowly builds in intensity, right before segueing into a lo-fi spoken-word denouement: “It’s the best years of our lives, motherfucker!” Brockhampton may be having the best years of their lives, but this certainly isn’t their best material.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 3