BROCKHAMPTON’s GINGER is a triumph of maturity and sensibility that allows the sum and its parts to feel equal without competition.
Listen: ‘GINGER’ – BROCKHAMPTON
BROCKHAMPTON, the boyband megalith that has completely turned the music industry and its “norms” upside-down, seem to be a never-ending machine that grows and expands and evolves so quickly your neck may snap just trying to keep up. This is not to their detriment, however, as the group’s progression has only further exhibited their strength as well as their resilience, and their culpable adaptability to an ever-changing world. If anything, BROCKHAMPTON just keep getting better — and this is further apparent on their newest album, GINGER (released 23 August via RCA Records).
GINGER accomplishes what BROCKHAMPTON ostensibly sought through their prior releases, recognizing their strengths and honing in on a more cohesive sound. While the Saturation trilogy and even certain — albeit rare — parts of iridescence scramble to prove a point and are at times greater than the sum of their parts, GINGER is, contrarily, a triumph of maturity and sensibility that allows the sum and its parts to feel equal without competition. With help from acclaimed producer Rick Rubin, BROCKHAMPTON have learned to exert their energy without overpowering themselves, to trim the fat without skimming the talent.
GINGER is an amalgamation of obvious maturity coupled with classic BROCKHAMPTON charms, granting listeners the opportunity to experience an impressive shift in an already-impressive group of artists. The album’s opener, “NO HALO,” holds no punches, immediately giving insights on the band’s struggles: with drugs, with depression, with breakups, with life. Aided by the angelic vocals of Deb Never, “NO HALO” tries to reconcile its sins, acknowledging finding ways to survive these growing pains in its chorus, “I’m sure I’ll find it.”
Shifting gears on “SUGAR,” the band this time seeks vocal assistance from Ryan Beatty, as the members of BROCKHAMPTON reflect on the hollowed memories of past relationships while simultaneously yearning for a partner to have by their side. “SUGAR” glows in its soulful desire; it is dually attentive to the past and present. Subsequently, “BOY BYE” addresses both mental health issues and growth in fame, and coping with these two things that somehow feel the same. “BOY BYE” is the only song on the record to utilize all thirteen members of the group, from vocals to production, and further exemplifies not only their musical and technical prowess, but their overall simpatico as a whole unit; the track feels precise, highlighting the best parts of what makes BROCKHAMPTON so special.
Put it in the vacuum, I got love for my label
Fifteen million on the table, none of my n*ggas is stable
Need a personal connection, I just wanna feel you, baby
Bein’ sober made me realize how poorly I been behavin’, uh
– Kevin Abstract, “BOY BYE”
“HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU” suddenly departs from the conglomerate that is “BOY BYE,” including none of BROCKHAMPTON’s vocalists and instead outsourcing the song to English rapper slowthai, who utilizes the song’s 90-second brevity to grapple with issues of religion and questioning morality. It is raw, reflecting on a life fraught with the unending debate of right versus wrong.
BROCKHAMPTON’s maturation is equally representative in their confidence, as the group’s sonic evolution continues to prove that one should never assume anything from BROCKHAMPTON. “ST. PERCY” further exemplifies this bravado, with the vocal members crooning about everything from their sexual prowess to their work ethics and upbringings. The song showcases BROCKHAMPTON living their best lives; lives they deserve to boast about.
“IF YOU PRAY RIGHT,” the second single from the album, completes an easter egg planted in the album: a reference to a Nina Simone song, “If You Pray Right (Heaven Belongs to You),” with part one of the reference appearing just two songs prior. “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT” again grapples with themes of religion, seemingly complementing its other half by positing ideals of right versus wrong and why one feels compelled to deal with these situations. Through these songs that are openly questioning morality, BROCKHAMPTON present themselves as thoughtful, insightful artists who care about the message they are sending to their listeners, imploring them to think more critically about the world around them.
Over the last 16 months, BROCKHAMPTON have not been free from controversy; rather, their world was rocked when sexual misconduct allegations came out against founding member Ameer Vann. The band subsequently removed Vann from the group, scrapped their then-forthcoming record PUPPY, and took a break for a bit. They ultimately released iridescence last September, which, barely noticeably, hinted at the situation. On this album, however, BROCKHAMPTON decide to acknowledge the situation more than ever before, on “DEARLY DEPARTED.”
Listen: “DEARLY DEPARTED” – BROCKHAMPTON
“DEARLY DEPARTED” is a heart-wrenching melody of sounds, sparing no emotion in any of the verses. The song as a whole more broadly discusses the loss of a loved one, with JOBA and Matt Champion venting their feelings about losing a grandparent, while Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon offering biting verses about lost friendships – and, more specifically, the loss of their friendship with Vann. In particular, McLennon raps about the sleights he endured in their relationship, tearing apart his former friendship and lamenting unreleased musical projects. The brokenness felt by each member is palpable, yearning for answers that will likely never come. “DEARLY DEPARTED” brims with heartache, raw emotion exploding on every line sung; the song deftly relates to the listener with its redolence of past relationships.
Pass the weight off to your friends and never face the truth
Because you never learned how to be a man
And it’s not my fault, and it’s not my problem anymore
That’s just where you stand
That’s just who you are
That’s your cross to bear
You could talk to God
I don’t wanna hear, motherfucker
– Dom McLennon, “DEARLY DEPARTED”
The album then moves into its first single, “I BEEN BORN AGAIN,” the most prominent showing from Kevin Abstract. In his verse, Abstract makes references also acknowledged on his most recent solo release, ARIZONA BABY, again mentioning his relationship with Ameer Vann and how his wealth has affected him. Similarly, Dom McLennon and JOBA both also note how their lives have changed compared to their modest Texas upbringings, simultaneously reveling in their fame while questioning its importance.
BROCKHAMPTON have undeniably evolved since their humble beginnings; not only has their musical prowess grown into a mature self-awareness that only promises to push them to even greater heights, but their personal lives have also substantially changed since their days on Vice’s ALL-AMERICAN BOYBAND. The members of BROCKHAMPTON no longer share one home together, as they did for so many years upon first moving to L.A., and many of them have branched out beyond the band unit to focus on work on their own projects. Even still, the BROCKHAMPTON collective serves as their lighthouse; beckoning them back home whenever they need.
LISTEN: “I BEEN BORN AGAIN” – BROCKHAMPTON
“GINGER,” the album’s eponymous track, discusses BROCKHAMPTON’s current life situation and its effects on the members of the group. While the verses each respectively mention needing space, the chorus still reassuringly proclaims: “I know you got your own shit / and all of it together / and you know you got your own space / right here forever, baby.” Despite necessary individuality, they won’t take for granted the opportunity to reunite when possible.
The members of BROCKHAMPTON have never been shy to share their feelings through their songs, often wearing their hearts proudly on their sleeves and allowing listeners to gain insight into their thoughts and emotions. On “BIG BOY,” this remains expressly true, as the group croons about using music as an outlet when they feel stifled. Kevin Abstract, JOBA, and bearface all explain how for too long, and especially while growing up, they were often told that it was not “manly” enough to show any emotion, and therefore needed to find other ways to express themselves. JOBA, however, flips the middle finger at this notion during the song’s bridge, stating: “Lost my way tryna change for the wrong crowd / I’m weak and I’ll say it proud.”
Lost cause and a lost child
Lost my way tryna change for the wrong crowd
I’m weak and I’ll say it proud
Built me up, pull me down, let’s air it out
Patch me up, and stitch it
Make me better
Just patch me up, and stitch it
Make me better
– JOBA, “BIG BOY”
As the album nears its close, “LOVE ME FOR LIFE” continues concentrating on the ongoing themes found throughout the rest of the album, like coping with loneliness and navigating fame and fortune. Through all of the struggles, however, they simply hope that they will continue to be liked despite their flaws. To be honest, though: that’s not hard to do.
GINGER has been a throughline of honesty and vulnerability, showcasing perceptible humanity in its rawest forms. The album’s closing song, “VICTOR ROBERTS,” is no exception to this. Named after the song’s narrator, another outsourced talent and friend of Dom McLennon, “VICTOR ROBERTS” tells a true story experienced by its raconteur in his childhood: when the LAPD came and arrested his parents for drug possession, for drugs that were not even theirs. Throughout the song, Roberts describes how the event ultimately affected him as he grew older, and how he keeps an extremely tight circle due to lack of trust of others. The song ends with help from bearface and Ryan Beatty, who express gratitude for those they trust. As the album’s closer, it feels like a natural release; despite all the struggles, it’s always good to keep your loved ones close.
BROCKHAMPTON have undoubtedly grown over the course of their musical tenure, continually surprising and delighting fans and critics alike with their maturation. They have naturally come into their own, consciously reflecting on their lives with finesse and unostentatious self-efficacy. GINGER feels appropriately thoughtful, providing BROCKHAMPTON with the best tools to continue on their explosive — and inevitable — rise.
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