ALBUM REVIEW: Iridescence by BROCKHAMPTON
Written by Jack McEntee on September 26, 2018
Description: Brockhampton is a hip hop musical collective consisting of 13 members. The band was originally formed in San Marcos, Texas, but moved to South Central Los Angeles early last year. The band met on an online forum called “KanyeToThe” and refer to themselves as a boyband. The group consists of Kevin Abstract, Dom Mclenon, Bearface, Matt Champion, Joba and Merlyn Wood, just to name the rappers themselves. Last year, they released three studio albums that became known as the Saturation Trilogy. They recently were put in the media limelight as one of the founding members of the group, Ameer Vann, was accused of sexual assault and emotional abuse from his ex-girlfriend. The group decided to part ways with Ameer after the severity of these charges became apparent. Iridescence is Brockhampton’s fourth studio album, and their major label debut under RCA Records.
Final Thoughts: If you aren’t familiar with Brockhampton by now, please go back and listen to the three Saturation albums before continuing this review. Their rise to hip hop fame is by no accident; they worked harder than anyone last year to earn their success. Not only did they release three studio albums, they released three of the best albums I heard last year. And I can’t say any other artist I love has done that. I still don’t think the realization of one group producing that much quality music has hit me. So hey, why not make a fourth album? And not only did they make another quality project, Iridescence has been announced to be part of yet ANOTHER trilogy by the boyband. They just don’t stop! It’s a phenomenon we’ll look back on 20-30 years from now and think to ourselves what a special and legendary time in music this all was. Brockhampton fans have become accustomed to their incredible talent, but others who have yet to hop on the bandwagon better soon see the light, because what we’re witnessing here is unlike anything that has happened in my lifetime. All that being said, let’s take a look at this new album.
As I said before, this album serves as the first album in the band’s new trilogy, which they are calling “The Best Years Of Our Lives”, and what a strong way to kick it off. First off, the whole album was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, and secondly the opening track is a burst of energy from the revitalized group. “NEW ORLEANS” was described by Kevin as having a similar vibe to “Fireman,” Lil Wayne’s hit single from Tha Carter II. The chorus is extremely catchy as Kevin talks about the group’s rise to stardom: “Tell ‘em boys don’t run from us/ I been down too long, cousin/ I been down too long, brother/ Tell the world I ain’t scared of nothing/ Tell the world I ain’t scared of jumping.” We also get the very first collaboration between the group and another artist on this track: Jaden Smith. He’s essentially part of the band as he’s become a close friend of all members, but he fits smoothly on the final hook. The track knocks and is a great tone setter to the album. “THUG LIFE”, “BERLIN” and “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” follow, and are decent tracks, although I haven’t been able to get into “BERLIN” as much as I would like. It just feels all over the place and doesn’t contribute a whole lot to the rest of the album. I will say though, Dom destroys his two verses, and honestly is the shining star throughout this entire project in my opinion. He doesn’t deliver a lackluster verse anywhere, whereas Joba and Matt have a tendency to not add a whole lot to a few songs.
Speaking of a shining star, Merlyn steals the show on the track “WHERE THE CASH AT”. He comes in with the verse, “I’d rather be on acid, rather make investments/ They’ll come out of that debt, we’ll come out of those bed sheets/ I’m like the IRS, pull up to your address.” His strong and unique delivery really brings this opening verse home for me. But I have to talk about Kevin’s opening verse on “WEIGHT”. It’s probably the best verse he’s ever delivered, and he’s given us some special ones in the past. He raps, “They split my world into pieces, I ain’t heard from my nieces/ I been feeling defeated, like I’m the worst in the boyband/ I ain’t sleep in some weekends, trying to headline both weekends/ Leave my n****s, y’all sheepin’, I keep the world in my hands.” He goes on “I really miss the old days before the cosigns/ I really miss the cold days before the road signs/ I really miss when I ain’t know which way I was supposed to head/ And I was pressed because my shorty gave me cold signs/ And I was writing poems ‘bout her, dawg, in study hall/ And she was mad cause I never want to show her off/ And every time she took her bra off, my d**k would get soft/ I thought I had a problem, kept my head inside the pillow screaming.” It’s a powerful verse about his mental state dealing with his sexuality and looking back on the start of Brockhampton when nobody knew where it was going to go. I love the line when he says, “I keep the world in my hands.” It’s his way of saying how much more he has to offer. I love it in that we all have aspiring dreams and passions that we hold on to, but it’s our choice to share our passions with the world. Incredible verse.
“J’OUVERT” blew me away when the video dropped right before the album was released. It’s an absolute mosh pit starter. It’s off-the-wall and has a futuristic vibe. It’s like if the composer of for Tron was to conduct a hip hop banger for the film, but with like a Michael Myers creeper vibe. Of course, Joba takes over this track with the second verse as he addresses his drug addictions, dealing with people who criticized the band, Ameer’s sexual abuse allegations and how he feels like he’s been “misunderstood since birth.” It’s so aggressive and is delivered with an immense amount of passion. “HONEY” is yet another song where Dom takes over. His flow on the track is impeccable. He spits, “When our women start to die, when our children start to die/ I don’t feel their empathy, we’ve been displaced too many times/ Every summer in the city start to feel like Columbine/ Cause you gotta get yours, and I gotta get mines.” Here, he touches on tensions in the inner cities where the poverty-stricken have survival mentalities with “you’ve gotta gets yours, and I gotta get mines.”
And now to my favorite track on the album: “SAN MARCOS”. All three verses delivered by Brockhampton are great, touching on the simple life in San Marcos, Texas, being envious of others that goes nowhere, depression and suicidal thoughts. I love bearface’s hook: “But you know if I waste my time/ Talking ‘bout what ain’t mine/ And you know I’ll be last in line/ Just like last, last night.” Also, love Joba’s closing verse when he says, “Suicidal thoughts, but I won’t do it/ Take that how you want, it’s important I admit it.” And then we end the song with London Community Gospel Choir singing the outro: “I want more out of life than this/ I want more, I want more.” It’s such a beautiful song, and is only escalated with this incredible outro.
This leads us into “TONYA”, which is another track that touches on the charges on former bandmate, Ameer. Bearface delivers my personal favorite verse on the entire record with,
“We sat outside on the hardwood floor/ With our feet in dirt, and our hearts in awe/ I be losing sleep thinking ‘bout missed calls/ And I see the name circling our thoughts/ And I think about if we lose it all/ And I turn to shit that you’d never want/ Like the smoke, the drink, anything at all/ And I’ll say again, ‘Sorry, I don’t call’/ There’s no money on my mind, but my money or my mind/ What’s the first to fall?/ I never wanted this shit.”
“And I see the name circling our thoughts, and I think about if we lose it all.” This, to me, perfectly sums up the band’s collective reaction to when they decided to kick Ameer out of the group. Simply in silence and in their thoughts, thinking about the ramifications of Ameer’s allegations. Serpentwithfeet then makes a guest appearance on the chorus when he sings, “And, I’ve been feeling like I don’t matter how I used to.” The remainder of the song consists of all band members voicing their own thoughts on not only Ameer, but personal loss, as well. This will go down as one of Brockhampton’s best tracks in their discography.
Iridescence is a journey through the minds of all Brockhampton members. The album title makes perfect sense when you consider that the team ‘iridescent’ means “showing luminous colors that change when seen from various angles.” In other words, this album is showing off all colors of the band members, and each song can be interpreted differently, depending on which member’s verse you focus in on. I still hold all three Saturation projects above this album as of now, as I think there are moments on this record that feel scattered and out of place. Nonetheless, the boys do it again and deliver one of my favorite albums of the year. I can only imagine if they can somehow pull off another album before this year’s end.
Favorite Tracks: SAN MARCOS, TONYA, WEIGHT, J’OUVERT, HONEY