Their second release of the summer and part two of their trilogy, Saturation II, is L.A. rap group Brockhampton’s follow-up to their overnight sensation Saturation. The 16-person self-proclaimed hip-hop boy band (they reject the use of the word ‘collective’ and all comparisons to Odd Future) has been making waves in the rap scene ever since they packed up their lives and moved to L.A. together to pursue their dreams of being musicians. Made up of misfits, the members of Brockhampton met each other through KanyeToThe.com, a forum dedicated to fans of the rapper. Feeding off the momentum of a successful first release, Brockhampton isn’t wasting any time. If Saturation was their debut, then Saturation II is their declaration; they are here to stay, and they aren’t following any rules.
From the first few measures of opening track “GUMMY,” it’s made clear that Brockhampton isn’t the type of group that is going to fly under the radar. The use of orchestral strings sets up the track in an almost fantastical way—that is, until the de-facto group leader Kevin Abstract’s voice chimes in and effectively cuts it off. His clever opening verse is simultaneously a celebration of the group and a critique of himself. Although this track (and, frankly, the whole album) jumps from theme to theme, one concept remains consistent throughout: The group comes first. This idea is seen in Abstract’s first verse (“Keep my heart with my dogs”), Dom McLennon’s (“Don’t go no friends in the game, it’s me and my brothers alone”), Matt Champion’s (“Me and all my boys jet, swervin’ like a donut”).
The focus of this album is not one overarching theme; Brockhampton is not here to give you any answers about the meaning of life.
The reason why this album tackles so many different ideas is because each member has a distinct style and background. Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, JOBA, and Ameer Vann all met in high school in The Woodlands in Texas; Bearface is from Belfast, Ireland; Dom McLennon, from Hartford, Connecticut. This doesn’t even cover half the group. The rest of the team (producers, photographers, engineers, web developers), who also hail from all over, influence the sound, style, and brand of Brockhampton just as much as the artists. Abstract delegates himself to the catchy, often poppy M.I.A.-inspired hooks and verses about his sexuality. He jokes that he’s “Making out with Zayn in a lawn chair” in “JELLO” and calls out his critics in “JUNKY” with the lines “Why you always rap about being gay? / ‘Cause not enough n***** rap about being gay!” Vann is known for his confessional, aggressive verses about his past life, which usually focuses on drugs, like in the opening lines of “SWAMP”: “My daddy taught me how to sell dope / turn grams into elbows.” Merlyn is a vocal shapeshifter, JOBA can hit any high note, Bearface adds unexpected ballads to break up the album.
With so many different personas working together on one project, it’s not surprising that critics of the album have called it unfocused. It’s certainly true that this album does not flow in one clear direction—it’s a zigzagging frenzy of anger, surprise, relief, regret. The only clear path it does follow is that of human emotion, especially during young adulthood. So, what more does it need? The focus of this album is not one overarching theme; Brockhampton is not here to give you any answers about the meaning of life. They’re just a group of outcasts who found their peace with each other, and they’re here to tell you their story. The track “QUEER” allows the members to explore what makes them weird; Champion opens it up with “Skinny boy, skinny boy, where your muscles at?” Wood mentions being Ghanian; “CHICK” gives them the opportunity to declare their mission to stay true to themselves and remember their origins, unlike other, popular rappers who let money make them selfish. The list goes on.
It would take pages and pages to go through each verse in this 16-track manifesto of an album, and spelling it all out would take half the fun out of listening. Despite the sometimes harsh, rough-around-the-edges feeling of this work, what really sits at the root of this album is fun. What did you expect? Brockhampton is a bunch of guys who are currently having the time of their lives, and they want to let the world (and especially all of their doubters) know that. Saturation II has allowed them to solidify their reputation as hip-hop bad boys with a knack for invention and has made their fans (and foes) even more eager for their next release.
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Brockhampton’s Album ‘Saturation II’ is Their Declaration: Featured image courtesy of Question Everything, Inc