iridescence displays Brockhampton’s vulnerability

By CATE TURNER | September 27, 2018

Brockhampton’s fourth studio album, iridescence, was released as the band’s first label-produced album on Friday, Sept. 21. A self-proclaimed American boy band, Brockhampton is a collective of rappers, producers, designers and creators who have put out four studio albums and one mixtape in less than two years (three of which — the Saturation trilogy — came out in 2017). Despite their impressive track record, Brockhampton had much to prove on this latest release. Since SATURATION III, the band kicked out one of their founding members, Ameer Vann, due to sexual abuse allegations; signed to RCA Records despite protests and resistance from their fan base; and repeatedly pushed back the release of the album.

However, the album certainly does not disappoint. It is a successful continuation of the experimental, genuinely fun kind of hip-hop music that Brockhampton started with in their Saturation trilogy. But iridescence is more exploratory than their past music has been, most likely because of their success in the music industry and their record contract with RCA. Perhaps most impressively, the album was mostly produced in just 10 days while the band stayed at the famous Abbey Road recording studio in London. 

Brockhampton prefaced the release of iridescence with three singles: “1997 DIANA,” “1998 TRUMAN” and “1999 WILDFIRE,” all with accompanying music videos. These songs do not appear on the album, though they remain directly in line with most of Brockhampton’s upbeat, expressive songs. While all of their albums contain slower, more emotionally raw songs, these three singles stray from that and help prospective fans hear what kind of music Brockhampton is most famous for. 

The album’s first track, entitled “NEW ORLEANS” (with a feature from Jaden Smith), is an impressive introduction to the album. Kevin Abstract, the band’s creator, compared the first track to Lil Wayne’s “Fireman” in a tweet. Both are fast-paced, purposeful songs. 

Intense tracks like “WHERE THE CASH AT,” in which vocalist Merlyn Wood commands most of the song with his signature loud rapping style, contrast perfectly with tracks like “FABRIC” and “TONYA,” which are songs more populated by falsetto verses and vulnerable lines from rapper Dom McLennon. 

Brockhampton has never been afraid to address serious issues in their music. Kevin Abstract regularly raps about his experience growing up as a gay black man in Houston, with a mother that didn’t accept him and a music industry that constantly isolated him. He gets more emotional on the short, sweet track “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM,” which, according to Abstract, is an ode to his long-term boyfriend, Jaden Walker. In interviews, Abstract consistently emphasizes the importance of gay voices in the hip-hop industry, and he proves his dedication through his rhymes.

All members of the band have moments where their passionate verses help carry the emotion of the album. Russell Boring, also known as JOBA, gets real on “SAN MARCOS,” a song named after the Texas city where Brockhampton began their climb to fame. He sings “Suicidal thoughts, but I won’t do it / Take that how you want, it’s important I admit it / I’m afraid of commitment, don’t know how to fix it.” The song closes off with an inspiring, simply lovely outro by the London Community Gospel Choir, in which they repeat “I want more out of life than this.”

Dom McLennon, perhaps one of the most lyrically talented members of the group, addresses his struggles with depression and the pressure he puts on himself in “THUG LIFE.” McLennon never chooses simple topics to rhyme about, though he reliably delivers fast-paced, intricate, impressive lyrics, such as his verse on “BERLIN.” His verses are more typical of the classic hip-hop style that influences Brockhampton, but his openness is what helps him fit into the band.

Matt Champion, another vocalist in the group, explores his vocal range on this album, which is something he began to do in the Saturation trilogy. He is perhaps most impressive in songs like “TAPE,” where his slower style shows more importance in the words he’s saying rather than the speed at which he raps them. His falsetto also makes its mark in “SAN MARCOS.”

iridescence also features more from Bearface, a member of the band who had been previously limited mostly to harmonic outros and guitar solos. Bearface definitely has the most singer-songwriter style voice in the band, and his voice offers a refreshing melodic change of pace in songs like “J’OUVERT,” which features many angry, loud lyrics from the rest of the group. 

Brockhampton faced a lot of pressure in the creation of this album. Calling themselves “the hardest working boy band in show business,” they’ve set a high standard for themselves, but iridescence proves that they just might be right.

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