album review: Brockhampton's saturation ii
Written by Andrew Busch, Staff Writer
Just two months after the release of their debut album Saturation in June, the Texas-based hip-hop collective, BROCKHAMPTON, has already followed up with a sophomore album. The rate at which this group churns out music is stunning, but it is even more surprising how they improve upon the shortcomings of their previous album in a matter of months.
Although SATURATION was a promising debut with a more consistent style than their mixtape, All-American Trash, the freshness of its brag raps and songs about self-love eventually wore out towards the end. As a result, SATURATION II is a welcome improvement that is a bit bolder in terms of its lyricism and scope. As the seven main vocalists/rappers trade verses and hooks, they each reveal something personal, and even some things you would not expect to hear on a hip-hop album.
For example, Kevin Abstract delivers a visceral verse on “Junky” that exposes the homophobic nature of hip-hop, while on the same song Matt Champion attacks hyper-masculinity by denouncing male entitlement to sex. These themes and lyricism set BROCKHAMPTON apart from the rest of the hip-hop community that is still littered with homophobia and misogyny. SATURATION II proves that this group has a story worth telling and I can only hope that they continue to question the problematic elements that continue to plague hip-hop even in 2017.
Yet, we still have to take these verses with a grain of salt. Not every line on this album is progressive or unique. BROCKHAMPTON still struggles to escape hip-hop tropes like harboring guns or raps about selling drugs. They even fall into some all-around corny lyrics like on the song “JESUS” where Kevin raps about a toxic past relationship. At their weakest moments, the group feels like an improved version of Odd Future at their peak. BROCKHAMPTON is still clearly maturing, but the development that they have made on Saturation II is a testament to their steady progression.
Even when the lyricism fails on SATURATION II, the unique production work is enough to make each track distinct and keep you listening. For example, the song “FIGHT” begins with Ameer Vann rapping over a Flamenco guitar until it is replaced by some complex layers of bass and dissident ‘80s synth sounds that resemble something out of the band SURVIVE’s playbook. Alternatively, “SWAMP” features a more classic west coast sound with trap drums backing its synths and clean guitar riffs. On SATURATION II BROCKHAMPTON’s skillful production team strikes an intriguing balance between exploring west coast and southern influences. Their style is unique and each track becomes a distinct piece while remaining part of the larger whole.
That being said, there are a couple tracks that feel a bit out of place. “GAMBA” is a bland auto-tuned love song that belongs on Yung Lean’s album Unknown Memory with its washed-out production and ascending synths. Additionally, “SUMMER” sounds like a Frank Ocean throwaway with some wonderful guitar parts, but its repetitive lyrics make it ultimately forgettable. This song also disrupts the perfect end-note that the summer anthem, “SUNNY”, the song before that would have been the perfect endnote. But despite these few missteps, dull moments on SATURATION II are few and far between. And while BROCKHAMPTON shows that they are not perfect just yet, they have continued to deal with their growing pains and have created something remarkable.
BROCKHAMPTON’s sophomore release proves that this group is different as well as more talented than modern collectives like Odd Future and A$AP Mob. The group’s lyrical skills in combination with a distinct production style work in harmony on Saturation II to create a memorable album that is unlike a lot of the bland, mainstream entries in modern hip-hop. You can catch BROCKHAMPTON on their US tour in the fall if you were lucky enough to score tickets. Fortunately for the rest of us, Saturation III already has its first single so it won’t be too long until we hear from BROCKHAMPTON again.
Most Memorable Tracks: JUNKY, FIGHT, GUMMY, SUNNY
Most Forgettable Tracks: GAMBA, JESUS, SUMMER
Check out the new track from SATURATION III below:
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