Brockhampton - 'Iridescence' Review
Every few years there always seems to be this one artist that no matter where you go you can’t stop hearing about. Their name becomes somewhat of a cultural Beetlejuice as it echoes across the internet and this year the spot was occupied by Brockhampton. From hidden gems to international icons, Brockhampton shot to fame after a string of three stellar albums in 2017 forming the ‘Saturation Trilogy’ and without touching too much on the Ameer Vann controversy (something we discussed here on The Loop), I and many other fans were curious if they would reach the same heights of 2017 with their re-structured group. On Iridescence it’s clear that Brockhampton have reinvented themselves since the Saturation Trilogy, the catchy hooks and conventional song patterns that we were used to have disappeared to make way for a whole new sound entirely. Iridescence is distorted, chaotic and shows the group coming in full force in a way that definitely shouldn’t work but almost certainly does on the strangest and most intriguing album the group have put out.
The self-proclaimed ‘World’s greatest boyband’ are somewhat well known for their insane opening tracks and let me tell you, ‘NEW ORLEANS’ is no exception as the boys throw you head-first into the warped and crazy sound of Iridescence. Dom comes right out of the gate on this track with one of most aggressive and energetic verses of his career and his energy is matched by every other member on this track, including Jaden Smith, who provides a nice surprise feature on one of the hooks. After this first track there was a sigh of relief, relief that the Saturation Trilogy wasn’t a flop and that the boys were onto something again. The first thing I noticed after my first listen was the structure of Iridescence, at this point, the Saturation Trilogy had a very distinct track list as it felt like they were just hitting quotas of ‘4 Slow songs, 4 Bangers, 2 Catchy songs and an acoustic Bearface song to close the album’. I am thrilled that they’ve done away with this formula because to be honest it’s just much more exciting when you don’t know what song is coming next. And they make use of that to glorious effect, such as on the transition from the Merlyn-led slapper, ‘WHERE THE CASH AT’ into one of the most tender and beautiful songs on the album, ‘WEIGHT’.
Not only is the album exciting going track to track but within the tracks themselves such as on the aforementioned ‘WEIGHT’. The track opens with an absolutely flooring verse from Kevin Abstract as he discusses is insecurity when it comes to the band and his sexuality. This vulnerability is then broken by a sudden drum and bass-esque explosion that feels very reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s ‘Pretty Sweet’. Another fantastic example of the constant switching of sounds comes on ‘HONEY’ as the song goes from one of the poppier numbers on the album to a DJ Screw inspired slow dance remix of one of their older songs from Saturation I, ‘BUMP’.
With the amount I’ve talked about the production on this album it should be no secret who the star of Iridescence is, Jabari Manwa and Romil Hemnami, the two primary producers for Brockhampton. The sounds they craft throughout the album can be thoughtful and quiet or loud and distorted and sometimes at the same time, such as the closing half of ‘FABRIC’. This isn’t to say that the rappers and singers of the group aren’t putting in work as Joba and Dom McLennon really shine on this album providing some of their best verses. However, some other members like Matt Champion don’t do that much to impress me on here and really get sidelined for some of the more interesting verses. A track where everybody seems to shine is ‘TONYA’, a somber, piano lead track where the group laments on everybody who has let them down, most notably, Ameer Vann. Kevin’s words on here are simply heartbreaking when you consider the friendship the two had saying ‘I feel like brothers lie just so my feelings don’t get hurt’.
Another factor about this album that many may find disappointing is the lack of catchy hooks that the group are known for and I must admit that is it jarring at first. I was always a fan of the way that the group branched between pop and hip-hop with some of their bouncier song’s like ‘GOLD’ and ‘SWEET’ and there is none of that here. However, this is very clearly a new era for the group, one that is lead by dynamic instrumentals and energetic delivery. The most important thing that the group brings on Iridescence is vulnerability, something that is desperately needed in hip-hop, proving once again that Brockhampton have something to say and will push the boundaries of hip-hop to say it.
Listen to the album in full below: