Self-proclaimed boy band BROCKHAMPTON dropped their much-anticipated album iridescence this past Friday. Forming only three years ago, the group had already released four albums, including All-American Trash and the Saturation trilogy. With their constant influx of content, experimental sound and unique aesthetic, the group has been experiencing tremendous growth in popularity, from having a Viceland series to hanging out with iconic producers like Rick Rubin and Pharrell Williams.
BROCKHAMPTON has had a fairly tumultuous 2018. Along with unexpectedly signing to RCA Records, they also lost an integral member, Ameer Vann, due to domestic abuse allegations. Vann was known as being one of their most technically sound rappers, and his departure left fans wondering if the group would sustain. After several album delays and tour date cancellations, the band regrouped and became reinspired while in London, where they put together 15 tracks to create iridescence.
Despite the shifting dynamics, the new album delivers everything fans love from the past. The production on iridescence shows definite growth and visibility in a culture where mainstream hip-hop is becoming more homogenous. Steering clear of generic trap beats and overly refined production, the group opts for a more abrasive and grimy sound compared to previous albums.
The opening track “NEW ORLEANS,” inspired by Lil Wayne, is an intense, fast-paced song that sets an unexpectedly aggressive tone for the record. It has typical BROCKHAMPTON qualities like Dom McLennon’s smooth, quick bars and Merlyn Wood’s yelps, but it also features a brief Jaden Smith cameo.
The song “HONEY” has stand-out production that samples “BUMP,” an early song of theirs, as well as Beyonce’s “Dance For You.” The track embodies how they haven’t shied away from experimenting past their typical production, most of which featured little sampling.
The group’s innovation is demonstrated through their heavy use of voice distortion. “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM,” a simple and short track with vibes similar to Kevin Abstract’s American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, takes this distortion to another level. Inspired by the particular voice in Radiohead’s Kid A, Abstract’s robotic vocals on the song contrast with its wholesome, heartfelt lyrics.
The effect takes this fairly basic track and elevates it into an experimental, bizarre 90 seconds that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. High pitch voice manipulation can also be heard on tracks such as “THUG LIFE” and “BERLIN,” a technique that’s become a staple for the band and can be heard on previous albums.
"The record shifts between tracks with biting lines and rough beats to slower songs with more meaningful and personal lyrics."
The record shifts between tracks with biting lines and rough beats — like on “J’OUVERT” — to slower songs with more meaningful and personal lyrics, especially toward the end. Priding themselves on being a group that serves as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, themes such as mental health, acceptance and substance abuse are often brought up.
On the song “WEIGHT,” Kevin Abstract delivers a dense verse about coming out, the stress of fame and his friends’ mental health. Abstract raps, “‘Cause I’m still worried ‘bout when Ashlan finna put the razor down” and, “I thought I had a problem, kept my head inside a pillow screaming.” As a result of their rapidly increasing popularity, the group touches on a new theme: pressure.
The second to last track “TONYA” captures the fear and stress experienced from making the album. Paying homage to the movie “I, Tonya,” lyrics about trying to stay grounded and emotionally stable will resonate with everyone. So, it’s quite fitting that this was the track BROCKHAMPTON performed during their first television appearance on “The Tonight Show” in June, shortly after Ameer Vann’s departure.
The final track “FABRIC” is a perfect culmination of this theme. Dom McLennon, arguably displaying his best lyrical performance on this record, raps “I know that when they see a brilliant mind they’ll just abuse you/ It’s hard to feel what’s real some nights I’m scared that I’m delusional.”
BROCKHAMPTON’s iridescence is a thorough album which allows the band to stay true to their roots while still venturing into new creative territory. The group has consistently set a higher bar with each new record and manages to surpass expectations — iridescence is no exception.