BROCKHAMPTON is a rap/hip-hop group from San Marcos, Texas. They’ve called themselves “the best boyband since One Direction,” and their meteoric rise to superstardom is quite reminiscent of the career trajectories of groups like these. The group debuted last year with Saturation I, II, and III, each of which were met with widespread critical praise and love from young hip-hop fans everywhere.
The large lineup of members, each of whom share vocal duties across the discography, gives the group a fantastically eclectic sound as well as a kind of irresistible, manic energy. Many tracks rest comfortably on the verge of chaos, both rhythmically and due to the constantly shifting flows. Borrowing from the growing movement of experimental and minimalistic hip-hop which is looming in the underground world, BROCKHAMPTON adapts a very unique and often complex style to make it more accessible to general listeners without losing it’s key qualities. Because of this, I was excited to hear Iridescence, which would be the fourth entry to the groups discography, and it certainly was not a let down.
The most noticeable aspect of this project, upon first listen, is excellent production. Each instrument has a depth and weight to it in the mix and the stereo image is inventive and exciting. Furthermore, the vocal effects used on tracks like “DISTRICT,” add yet another layer to the already rich soundscape.
This, in turn, means that the album is extremely well paced. Song length varies greatly, with one of my favorite tracks, “Loophole,” being less than a minute long excerpt from an interview, and “Thug Life,” makes the most of it’s two minute run time. Others, like the excellent opener, “New Orleans,” have runtimes which exceed four minutes, carrying all of it well.
The aforementioned sonic diversity also means that Iridescence is packed to the brim with verses which highlight great flows from each member. Joba’s verse on “Tape,” for example is one of the best verses of the year and Matt Champion’s follow up is all but equal in quality. And, of course, Kevin Abstract’s work on “Weight,” is incredible, and adds to the tracks status as my favorite moment on the album. All this without mentioning the jarring and brutal style employed by Merlyn Wood on “Where the Cash At.”
Beyond diversity in flow, the production on this album is completely unpredictable in terms of instrumentals. Tracks like “J’ourvert,” accomplish this by switching beats and styles constantly, while “Honey,” or “San Marcos,” constantly introduce new and unique instruments.
This brings us to yet another interesting quality to Iridescence: it’s extremely broad instrumentation pallet. “Tonya’s” moving piano is surprising in the best way possible while the strange organ on the closer, “Fabric,” is quite intriguing even after it’s initial introduction because of it’s enigmatic tone.
If there are a few week points, they come in the form of the groups simpler, more emotional tracks. While this works well on tracks like “Weight,” it can also fall flat, as it does on “Fabric,” often sabotaged by the strange flows and production which surround the lyricism, which is also not always perfect.
Brockhampton is at their best, however, when the bass is heavy and the flows are brutal. “Brazil,” for example, is one of the most charismatic hip-hop tracks in recent memory, and “District,” seems only to improve with repeated visits. It’s here, with each element of the group operating at full speed and putting in maximum effort, that BROCKHAMPTON sounds genuinely special. Iridescence may not be for everyone, it certainly isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t quite have the listenability value of other BROCKHAMPTON projects, and yet there is something quite great about it.
There are a few weak links and a few underdeveloped elements, but the sheer scope combined with the energy and passion which radiates from every performance makes this album and this group one of the best in modern hip-hop, bare none.
HEAR IRIDESCENCE: https://open.spotify.com/album/3Mj4A4nNJzIdxOyS4yzOhj