Album Review: Brockhampton – iridescence
September 26, 2018
The boys are back.
After a breakout 2017, L.A. based boy band Brockhampton followed up their beloved Saturation series with their fourth studio album iridescence.
If you haven’t heard of this group, they are one of the hottest commodities in the entire music industry. They are comparable to mega-groups such as the Wu-Tang Clan and Odd Future for how unique and trend-setting they have become. With a group comprised of over a dozen members, they have stunned fans by how creative their music and branding is.
Another facet of their music that continues to amaze fans is how different yet cohesive all of their respective styles are. Somehow, the jack-of-all-trades ringleader Kevin Abstract, yelpy Merlyn Wood, hard-nosed spitter Dom McLennon, laid-back Matt Champion, and an on-edge and insane Joba all managed to complement each other incredibly over past efforts.
The Saturation projects were beloved by both the fans and critics alike, but many questions persisted throughout the buildup of the project. Would their first non-independent album be marred be executives at RCA Records, and more important, how would “America’s Hardest Working Boy Band” fare without Ameer Vann, an integral part of their previous records?
All of these questions were put to bed, however, with the release of this strong, but not fantastic, album.
Despite the influence of a major record label, Brockhampton stuck to their guns with 15 distinct tracks worth of whatever their heart desired. There are no signs of conformity or compromising from the collective and they maintained their track record of delivering original material with innovative song structures. With all of the talent they have at their disposal, each performer had a chance to show their stuff.
Brockhampton once again pushes the boundaries of hip-hop and alternative music with a solid mix of off-the-wall bangers and personal calm down moments.
Within the first two cuts, the boys look they never missed a beat. “NEW ORLEANS” sounds urgent due to the constant instrumental trill and Kevin Abstract’s chorus, which is fitting for the song’s narration of the Brockhampton come-up. The ending of the track transitions seamlessly into the next track “THUG LIFE,” which carried by an uptempo piano melody plays under a rare moment of melancholy for Dom McLennon.
The heartfelt rap balladry of “WEIGHT” is an extremely emotional cut, which is highlighted by a somber opening verse from Kevin who sounds overwhelmed Brockhampton while also being nostalgic about his life prior to fame. Dom’s realizations about people that surround him and Joba sounding like he was at his breaking point also add a lot of color to the piece. Most of the track is also accompanied by a gorgeous string section that created one of the best instrumental soundscapes on the album.
Even though “LOOPHOLE” was a skit (the only one on the album), it bears mentioning because of how relevant it is to Brockhampton’s situation as signees to a major record deal. While the skit is simple, it shows that Brockhampton wasn’t selling out because of the fact that they now had corporate backing. They still wanted all of the money and were aware of how many other musicians had been conned by the music industry.
“J’OUVERT” deserves to be noticed for many reasons, the biggest of which being arguably the best verse on the project landing on here. Joba’s verse is unhinged and he is on the verge of snapping during his memorable and chaotic segment. There is also an interesting Latin groove switch up following that verse, which Merlyn delivers some of his part over.
The album comes to a close with three low-key yet powerful tracks in the form of “SAN MARCOS,” “TONYA,” and “FABRIC” respectively. The first of those is in reference to the town in Texas where Brockhampton was formed, the second song is yet another ode to instability caused by fame and shares themes with Oscar-nominated film I, Tonya, and the finale once again focuses on issues pertaining to the group. Each song strikes a personal tone and rounds out the 49 minute experience nicely.
Unfortunately, this album happens to be the worst in Brockhampton’s discography. With that being said, it still functions as a good but not great contemporary rap record.
There are a handful of moments that have a cool idea or an interesting instrumental, but it doesn’t really follow through. “BERLIN” has a grimy beat and a solid hook from Bearface, but the verses leave a little to be desired. “DISTRICT” is the worst on the album due to the clunky instrumental switches and below-average rapping.
This is also a project where the listener can point to moments and see outright influence from other rappers, which isn’t like Brockhampton. There are occasions where Joba outright bites the flow and sound from Denzel Curry’s excellent TA13OO record and the Merlyn verse on “HONEY” sounds copied and pasted right off “Paranoid” by Kanye West.
iridescence has a lot of high points that sound fresh and wave-creating, but there’s something holding it back from reaching the quality level of the Saturation series.