If you’ve been paying attention to music for the past year or two, you’ve probably heard about a group called BROCKHAMPTON. After blowing up and shaking the music industry with their bombastic approach to the boyband ethos, BROCKHAMPTON has had an interesting rise to success. Combining elements of hip-hop, r&b, and 90’s/2000’s pop, the 14 piece collective made waves throughout 2017 with the acclaimed release of their SATURATION trilogy.
After self releasing that string of fantastic albums and garnering massive critical attention, they swiftly signed to RCA Records, embarked on several U.S. and world tours, and even earned a spot on the Camp Flog Gnaw festival lineup.
It seemed like BROCKHAMPTON was only on the up and up, until a scandal involving one member, Ameer Vann, led to the remaining members of the group kicking him out with the intention of eliminating any looming toxicity. What followed was an extensive period of silence from the prolific group, leading many fans to be skeptical about what the future held. Was this the end?
Thankfully, fans and the greater public weren’t left wondering for long, as the group released their major label debut, iridescence, last September. The album revealed a group who had overcome past trauma, who had grown and learned after an experience that almost tore them apart. The pop sensibilities were there, as well as the trunk rattling bangers, with emotional moments of tenderness still strewn around in a way that only they could pull off.
However, in my opinion, while I was happy to see their success continually grow, iridescence felt bogged down at times, mostly due to what I can only assume was growing pains with a bigger budget and major label backing; not to mention a change in the overall group dynamic sans Ameer Vann. Things were changing quickly for the group, and while the heart and genuine character of the music wasn’t diminished, something, however slight, felt different.
Fast forward to now, and we have BROCKHAMPTON’s fifth album, and their second with RCA, GINGER. With the release of the new album, I asked myself several questions: Will they still maintain their trademark sound?
Will they have better adjusted to their label and the new group dynamics without Ameer?
Most importantly though, Will the music still feel cutting edge, incorporating what they’ve done before and continuing to evolve?
I’m thrilled to say that the answers to all of the above questions is a resounding, YES. BROCKHAMPTON is back, baby! Across the 12 tracks of GINGER, the boyband proves themselves to have improved on all fronts, allowing every member to get equal moments to shine, with a blossoming sonic backdrop courtesy of their production team. All flows are watertight, no one is afraid to try new things, and a few stellar guest artists pop up to offer new voices into the BROCKHAMPTON fold.
Case and point: the album’s two opening tracks, “No Halo” and “Sugar”, featuring frequent collaborator Ryan Beatty and female singer Deb Never. While their albums typically open with explosive ragers, it’s refreshing to get a more mellow, emotional opening to set the tone for the rest of the record. The lyrics focus on the members’ shortcomings as lovers, friends, and in the eyes of a higher power, with everyone getting equal time to express themselves over layered acoustic guitars and some impactful drums; both songs carry a longing tone and exude the vibe of early 2000’s pop balladry.
Despite the sad boi vibe of the first two tracks, the album isn’t without it’s fair share of bops. The next 4 songs have a ton of head nodding potential, whether you’re dancing to “Boy Bye” or feeling like a bad ass on “St. Percy”. Credit is due to English rapper Slowthai for flooring me on the interlude-esque “Heaven Belongs to You”, dropping serious fire over a spacey yet skeletal beat that echoes the following song, “If You Pray Right”.
The title track and the song “Dearly Departed” both show the further growth of the group, with “Ginger” echoing 21st century indietronica and “Dearly Departed” bombarding the senses with a sweeping instrumental and fiery bars responding to the Ameer Vann controversy. BROCKHAMPTON continues to prove that the sky’s the limit when it comes to lyrical intensity and instrumental creativity.
After guest rapper Victor Roberts drops an absolutely captivating verse on the album’s final track, “Victor Roberts”, and the remaining members of BROCKHAMPTON come together to sing a gutting refrain about loving yourself, I’m left truly floored.
BROCKHAMPTON has been and continues to be one of the most exciting things happening in music right now, and I can honestly say that GINGER rivals the quality of music that the SATURATION trilogy has shown they are capable of. If you were skeptical about whether or not to join their following, I can assure you that they are worth watching now more than ever. GINGER is a blast to listen to, and I’m beyond excited to see what they can come up with next.