Title: Saturation III
Release Date: Dec 15th 2017
I have to admit, I was late on the BROCKHAMPTON hype train. I had only kind of heard of Kevin Abstract, and was mostly of the opinion that anything a group of weird-ass black teenagers could do to push the musical envelope had already been done by Odd Future years ago, back when Tyler declared that he was the devil wearing a white-T. I have to admit I was wrong.
If you’re just as much of quasi-old head as me, you probably need an introduction. BROCKHAMPTON is a media/creative collective and boyband founded by Texas native Kevin Abstract two years ago. The group is composed of fifteen artists, who met on the infamous
Kanye forum Kanyetothe.com. What’s special about the group is the way they approach collaboration. They are a symbol of what globalization and access has done to the creative process. The original gatekeepers of music are pretty much irrelevant allowing for more weird shit and creation in more than one genre. BROCKHAMPTON doesn’t just make music, they also direct their own music videos. They’ve had a Vice documentary. At the same time, the group thrives off a family mentality, which allows them to look to each other for continual inspiration and support. Self-branded as america’s favorite boy band, BROCKHAMPTON has quickly bent the typical mold for america’s favorite anything and crystallized the band’s desire to be a massive media force.
Since their inception, the group has been prolific, in part due to its large cast. Saturation III was their third studio album and their third album of the year, the other two being saturation I and II.
At forty-six minutes and 15 tracks, Saturation III is goes by fairly quick. Each song is somehow unique in similar ways. BROCKHAMPTON never lets the listener get to comfortable with the beat: bridges come and go, record scratches interject, and vocals crescendo. At times this can create simply beautiful compositions which compliment the band’s eccentric energy, (“BLEACH” and “ALASKA” both dovetail beautifully into new sounds which give the vocals more room), But at other times it seem just a bit cacophonous. At worse, each song becomes so nebulous you forget which one is which, or even end up feeling pretty apathetic about the ones that seem to have less creative direction Still though, the members of BROCKHAMPTON do well to float over the myriad of beats on the album, and no one can argue that they don’t bring energy to a track. For most of the members, their strength seems to be in flow and inflection, hitting the rhymes at just the moment or exaggerating just the right syllable to make the verse really bounce.
In terms of subject matter, the usual is back on the table for this album: personal vices, fame, dedication, queerness, and changing mentalities. Kevin is still talking about how he is the musical version of Steve jobs and Joba and Ameer are still sleeping with demons and being angsty. The difference though, is how they are articulating these notions. Those three in particular, Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, and Joba, showcased that they are capable of putting together more complex rhymes, growing their abilities as honest and engaging storytellers, and becoming more cohesive musicians. In the past, BROCKHAMPTON songs have tended to sound like a bunch of people jumping on a track, more and more they are starting to sound like a collective, and that comes from their experience working together and in general a more concrete thematic center. “I used to work for people, I made a couple hundred dollars Wasn’t worth it even, I’m worth a hundred thousand/ Not dollars but diamonds, I am mud out the bayou/ Rip a page out the Bible, come and crucify me/ I’m a long way from home and this ain’t Yellowstone/ I trade a white bitch for catfish and yellow bones/ This from the catacombs, this for the broken homes/ From the southside of cities where my granny home/ I moved to California, I bring a Grammy home.”Ameer raps on “ALASKA”. Notice the internal rhymes, ease in slipping in and out of metaphor, vivid imagery, and word play, all elements of a great verse. Similarly, on “JOHNNY”, Kevin Abstract raps, “I could have got a job at Mcdonald’s but I like curly fries/ that’s a metaphor for my life. And i like taller guys/ could got a deal if i wanted but I like ownin’ shit/ and I like makin’ shit and I like sellin it.” Same general message, two great ways of invoking it.
Although these verses and music bring some much needed energy and rejuvenation to the hip-hop scene, the group’s biggest strength, its excess of creativity, is still its biggest weakness. The songs are good, but they are still missing something, a purpose, a center, anything that can heighten the emotional resonance. Right now it feels like they have no stake. If BROCKHAMPTON wants to be a truly great rap group, it will require a lot of sharpening and editing, finding a way to keep the music free but also poignant. Looking at the members and their trajectory, I am nothing but hopeful.