By Tobias Soar
BROCKHAMPTON are a once-in-a-generation phenomenon that has been making waves within online hip hop communities this past year with the groundbreaking SATURATION trilogy, a trifecta of albums that shatter hip hop norms and, true to their name, present the listener with an overwhelming track list.
What makes this collective so special is the fact that they’re a self-contained powerhouse consisting of 14 members tasked with rapping, singing, producing, managing, directing music videos, being the webmaster, and more.
SATURATION III released on the 15th of December, almost exactly 6 months after the release of the first album of 2017. It’s the conclusion of a trilogy, the end of a phase of a musical — and audiovisual — journey that is unparalleled by any other individual artist or group in the whole timeline of musical history.
Lyrical themes of coming to terms with their sexuality, abuse, violence, love for their homies, and the importance of immaterial values above their physical counterparts are set to punchy, catchy beats that fit into any party playlist seamlessly.
The album is opened by ‘BOOGIE’ a loud, bouncy, punchy tune that leads you to wrongfully believe that the rest of the project will follow suit. Before listening to the opener I had never heard a rapper say “suck my willy” until now. Well done, Merlyn.
Fun fact: Every song on BROCKHAMPTON albums has the same number of letters in its title. The magic number for the third LP is six.
‘ZIPPER’ rides ‘BOOGIE”s wave with the fun hook: “ooh them boys stay nasty, floatin’ like Aladdin” and a piano riff in the background. The project takes an introspective tone with ‘JOHNNY’ and ‘LIQUID’ before ‘CINEMA 1’, the first of three skits present on the album that continue the trilogy’s recurring theme of Spanish monologues by Roberto.
Statements on the racism and homophobia present in our reality are made on ‘STUPID’. The song’s hook, sung by Kevin Abstract through a pitch-shifter, also speaks for itself: “boys wanna play on my cellphone but I don’t want nobody to see what’s in it”.
The following song, ‘BLEACH’ may be the boy band’s best song, musically, to date. It’s smooth and melancholic. Romil produced the track with Jabari and tweeted saying that the song’s outro, sung my Kevin and Bearface, is one of his favourite musical creations that he’s ever made.
‘ALASKA’ flows into ‘HOTTIE’, a seemingly upbeat and playful track akin to dreamy pop songs for enamoured teen girls is contrasted lyrically with every member having an existential crisis, saying how hard it is to find their place in the big wide world.
‘SISTER/NATION’ has a very aggressive first half in which Roberto talks about wanting to give up but staying strong for his friends and family. Then it seems as if it has become a rave track before melting into a nostalgic almost synthwave-like melody. The song comes a close second to ‘BLEACH’ as their best song.
A critique on how material possessions make us feel good paired with the catchiest hook on the album appear on ‘RENTAL’. ‘STAINS’ precedes ‘TEAM’, the only four letter track on the project, an allusion to TEAM EFFORT their upcoming 2018 project, as teased by Kevin on Instagram. It’s sad and slow, marking the end of an era for the boys before a beat-switch midway and a cheeky reference to ZZ Top’s ’25 lighters on his dresser’ from Gotsa Get Paid.
There’s a clear feeling of maturity on the LP when placed into context with is preceding projects. While SATURATION I brought anger and SATURATION II presented happiness and clarity, SATURATION III has a heavy feeling of sadness and closure.
If I had to rank the three I’d place SATURATION II first, a collective of bangers, above III, a cohesive, coherent project with I at the bottom. The beauty of BROCKHAMPTON’s overabundance of members and albums sets the groundwork for a boy band fan base. Every listener will have their favourite member, favourite album and favourite song, leading fans to have interesting discussions about every aspect of the collective’s work. I definitely have had some great chats about them over a pint or two.
If this is your first time hearing about this crazy boy band, start wherever you want. Pick any album, any music video, and enjoy the journey of discovery down the BROCKHAMPTON rabbit hole.
Ultimately, SATURATION III is a phenomenal show of what the band is capable of and how far hip hop’s boundaries can be pushed. The next year marks the dawn of a new era for them with an inevitable break into the mainstream and a possible new trilogy, too.
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