This article was written in collaboration by urooj rizvi, Maggie McHale, and James Crowley
As the modern music industry’s grassroots success story, BROCKHAMPTON are no strangers to equal amounts of praise and criticism. First releasing All-American Trash in 2016, followed by the wildly successful Saturation trilogy throughout 2017, BROCKHAMPTON felt the overwhelming need and desire to prove their worth to the world – and have done it tenfold. Signing with RCA Records earlier in 2018, BROCKHAMPTON ostensibly cemented their place in hip-hop and in music as a whole, promising an even more wildly successful future.
“The greatest boy band in the world” has not been without controversy, however; in May of this year, member Ameer Vann was smacked with sexual scandals that, ultimately, resulted in his removal from the group. Following this, BROCKHAMPTON halted their projects, delaying albums and falling off the grid for a few months. Their first live performance since the controversy, at The Reading & Leeds festival in the UK, the band was visibly upset and struggled to get through their set. They then subsequently returned with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, then released three singles over the course of the summer: “1999 WILDFIRE,” “1998 TRUMAN,” and “1997 DIANA,” leading fans to believe the group’s next album would follow this theme (this was then further speculated as the band announced their album’s title, The Best Years of Our Lives).
Then, finally, the members of BROCKHAMPTON formally announced irididescence, recorded in ten days at London’s iconic Abbey Road Studios. They released no leading singles, and only hyped the record through its artwork and aesthetics. When it finally dropped on September 21st, fans and critics alike were unsure what the album would be like. They did not disappoint – iridescence is a sweeping success, a conglomeration of songs that each uphold singularity in their own rights. Critics, too, agreed that the group had created something special; iridescence debuted at #1 on the Billboard Charts.
Atwood Magazine had some feelings about BROCKHAMPTON’s glimmering new record, noting its versatility, ingenuity, and overall exemplary creativity. Read our track-by-track review below.
urooj rizvi: Possibly one of the strongest entries into a hip-hop album, “NEW ORLEANS” puts the contrasting rapping styles of Dom McLennon, Matt Champion, JOBA and Merlyn Wood to excellent use and carries the much-awaited Jaden Smith feature. bearface’s bridge is a breathy interlude of distorted pitches and there’s a mechanical edge to the track that sounds so much like a car race unfolding in the background that it eventually gets stuck in your head. From enjoyable lyrical content like the choric’ “Tell my boy, I want a crib in London” and McLennon’s “I’m so accustomed to flames, I couldn’t tell you what’s fire” to the more profound lines such as Wood’s “If Jesus was a pop star, would he break the bank?” and JOBA’s “Impending death is the only sign of life”, “NEW ORLEANS” kicks off iridescence in true Brockhampton style, replete with layers of meaning and sound, with the promise of much more to come.
Maggie McHale: “NEW ORLEANS” feels like a perfect introduction into BROCKHAMPTON’s new era, while simultaneously closing the book on the Saturation era. “NEW ORLEANS” introduces iridescence similarly to the way Saturation I introduced itself: by markedly proclaiming a hearty “fuck you” to their haters. Each vocalist (and Jaden Smith) shines in their respective verse, maintaining their singularity in ways only members of BROCKHAMPTON truly could. Each verse remains highly cognizant of the goings-on of BROCKHAMPTON’s personal life – a subsequent theme throughout the record – forthrightly assuring listeners that if one thinks they know BROCKHAMPTON, they surely do not.
James Crowley: This is an excellent intro to set the tone of the album. It’s BROCKHAMPTON’s brand of feel-good socially conscious hip hop. Every verse is unique in flow and content, but fits coherently in the song. JOBA’s and Merlyn Wood’s verses stand out the most. Both have some of the grittier voices in the collective, but the nature of each verse is very different. JOBA’s is braggadocios in nature and somewhat praiseworthy, but Wood’s is a relatively calm critique of religion yet is still self-aware of the group’s all star status. “NEW ORLEANS” is a great continuation of what the band was doing with its Saturation trilogy.
urooj rizvi: The transition into “THUG LIFE” has been pointed out and heavily appreciated by avid fans across the internet. Even though the mood of “THUG LIFE” sounds starkly different to the track before it, being lighter and higher, it’s the transition that works the wonder of shifting the listener from “NEW ORLEANS” to “THUG LIFE.” As Kevin Abstract’s pitched vocals swim into the song over layers, bearface joins in with his “Try to treat men like baby / teeth sink in like rabies” but the highlight of this track is Dom McLennon’s verse, darker undertones of which contrast with the almost upbeat/hopeful background. Not only does the distortion add to the rawness of his voice, this segment’s lyrics are deeply personal and hard-hitting:
The biggest threat I’m up against is who I face in my reflection
Depression still an uninvited guest, I’m always accepting
Can’t help but meet the feeling with a familiar embrace
When I know that it’ll kill me if I give into my brain
I see the shadows inside, they ten feet tall with no eyes
I also think the track very smartly subverts the conventional ideas that the phrase “THUG LIFE” evokes in us, no longer reflecting a celebration of wealth and celebrity but rather exposing a more personal and difficult internal struggle that is carried out against the backdrop of fame.
Maggie McHale: The transition from “NEW ORLEANS” into “THUG LIFE” feels perfectly seamless, instantly welcoming a warmer, more soothing sound than its predecessor. “THUG LIFE” introspectively looks at life in the limelight, and the after-effects that can have on a person. Most notably, Dom McLennon croons:
It’s different reconciling with skeletons I ain’t know that I possessed
I sought perfection out in ways I no longer accept
I understand what I neglect in times when I obsess
I’m learning to confess, this fate is harder to digest
Invoking this type of self-awareness is something strongly used in BROCKHAMPTON’s music, yet now feels more poignant than ever. 2018 was undoubtedly BROCKHAMPTON’s most tumultuous year, while also being their most successful. Utilizing a 90s R&B-inspired backing track, the song’s lighter instrumentation vs. its heavier lyricism offer an intriguing dichotomy that ultimately denote deeper meanings than just surface level.
James Crowley: Having the beat continue from “NEW ORLEANS” is a nice touch. It shows that even though BROCKHAMPTON can explore a wide range of styles and emotions there is a throughline to it all. “THUG LIFE” sounds like an early 2000’s R&B jam, and it really melds with the style of art BROCKHAMPTON have been using in the lead up to iridescence.
urooj rizvi: “BERLIN” dips into the what success has been like for each of the boys: Dom McLennon sings about his ancestors watching him “shine,” Matt Champion wants “another dimension to enjoy,” and JOBA has found the “wind” which he follows to “wherever it goes.” There’s a celebratory confidence in this track, a sense of how far they have all come to achieve the dream that is BROCKHAMPTON for them and the chorus is obscenely catchy with bearface’s “Baby boy, why you lookin’ grimy as shit?” staying with you long after the song’s over. Kevin Abstract and Sammy Jo’s crooning slow-mo bridge is another high point, bringing The Weeknd to mind just for a long, lounging second before it swings back into the snappy set-up of the track, closing off with JOBA’s “dollars” on repeat and some oddly enjoyable electric guitar.
Maggie McHale: “BERLIN” follows iridescence’s ongoing theme of recognizing life in the limelight, and how the boys’ lives have drastically changed in the past year. The track acknowledges a departure from their past, as each vocalist proclaims their worth and how they are better off without the people who had been holding them back, as JOBA succinctly states: “good riddance, goodbye, outta sight, outta mind.” “BERLIN” gives listeners an opportunity to see BROCKHAMPTON as they are now, and not who they once had been.
James Crowley: The coping with success song is a right of passage, and “BERLIN” manages to capture some of the difficulties with a catchy hook, and the closing verse from JOBA is absolute vitriol. It’s a perfect kiss-off to those that end up creating roadblocks to one’s success: “Never asked for drama, but I’ll turn it into dollars.”
SOMETHING ABOUT HIM
urooj rizvi: This is easily one of the most endearing “love-songs.” Real, powerful feeling in “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” comes right through, even as Kevin Abstract works his way around some lovely, loving lyrics by way of obscure distortion and layering. Pitch switches through the verse, alternating between highs and lows, reflecting a quirkiness in the lyrics too as Abstract goes from “There’s something about him/ His car ain’t nice and flashy” to “I really like how you say all the things that you say (I love him)”.
There’s something immensely fulfilling about Kevin’s tender, dreamy ode to his boyfriend, Jaden Walker. For listeners/fans who have come with Abstract all the way, right from the days of All-American Trash to the beautiful American Boyfriend, “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” is a testament not only to Abstract’s growing comfort in himself but also to a beautiful relationship that is as much cause for happiness as it is for hope. “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” is a triumph that speaks simply and softly for Love. It’s definitely a gem of a track, leaving the listener as smitten with it as Abstract is with Walker.
Maggie McHale: “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” immediately invokes the most powerful feeling in the universe: pure, unadulterated l-o-v-e love. Helmed by Kevin Abstract, the track professes deep admiration for a significant other, overflowing with pure affection with palpable redolence. Never ones to shy away from being open about LGBTQ+ themes, BROCKHAMPTON often touch upon Abstract’s homosexuality, offering avenues for him to simply be his truest self. The rawness in “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” feels reminiscent of the sonic ploys that can also often be found in Frank Ocean’s repertoire, as Abstract’s raw emotionality shines through each lyric as he professes his love for his boyfriend, Jaden Walker. More broadly, the song resonates with anyone who has been in love and felt love in return and, even more significantly, addresses it with natural inclusivity that never feels disingenuous.
James Crowley: A short sweet song from Kevin Abstract really cuts through all the bullshit, and he just says how much he loves his boyfriend in as many or as few words as he needs. Abstract manages to capture how love can feel vague and specific all at once. It’s an emotion that you just feel. He doesn’t really go to far into specifics about the song’s subject besides his lack of a flashy car and a good attitude, but even though we don’t really learn too much about his boyfriend, we can all relate to the emotions that are laid out. “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” almost feels like an echo of Ariana Grande’s “pete davidson” in the vague, brief nature of it’s delivery.
WHERE THE CASH AT
urooj rizvi: The song’s energy is buzzing, the beat almost nightmarish with Merlyn Wood’s spitting some volatile rap from verse to chorus. Carefree with its “where the cash at” and almost demanding in its choral questions, the track’s pace is set not so much by the music than by the two rappers on it. Matt Champion takes on the second verse and drops a reminiscent line at the end of his part: “miss the days I can’t get back.” Robotic vocals are peppered throughout in the background: “there’s not a soul in here-” and the track ends abruptly with Wood’s admission of how things have changed, how ‘success’ has made it so that they no longer need to ask “where the cash at”. The title, then, doesn’t stand so much for money as it does for the memory of an earlier time.
Maggie McHale: Arguably serving as Merlyn Wood’s shining moment on the record, “WHERE THE CASH AT” tackles fake friends and the effects that fame has on relationships. Inauthenticity is rampant, as Wood and Matt Champion discuss being used and taken advantage of because of their newfound status. “WHERE THE CASH AT” looks externally at BROCKHAMPTON’s surroundings, calling out that which does not serve them. With its abrupt ending, one cannot help but feel as though BROCKHAMPTON is boldly stating, ‘this conversation is over, no more discussion about this.’
James Crowley: “WHERE THE CASH AT” is a song about being taken advantage of, and it has the same intensity as one would find in a Run The Jewels track. Merlyn Wood and Matt Champion have incredible chemistry. The sample of “There’s not a soul in here” seems to play into the people that seek to take advantage of the two no longer treating them as peers, but as a resource.
urooj rizvi: Almost violent in its emotivity, Weight is an unforgettable display of the sheer power of BROCKHAMPTON’s music. Each part of this song is an experience in itself. Kevin Abstract’s recognizable vocals take us through his struggle with his sexuality and his longing for the past, days that were untouched by stardom, as well as his concern for the mental health of his bandmates. The bridge is a beautiful switch of style and JOBA’s “Coz we’re born with a dollar sign attached to our temple” kicks off a short, well-penned and almost-optimistic verse. Dom McLennon’s entry into the song is stunning and marks another shift in mood.
His verse unravels with fierce vulnerability, just like the rest of the song, eloquent to the point of being very much like a poem. Lines like “My mother called my today / She said she thought she felt my energy a country away / I apologized for not calling enough due to weight” and “I think the hardest part of love could be rebuilding the breaks” are sharp and stunning, testifying to the immense writing talent of the band in question. Yet another shift occurs with the Sammy-Jo feature, that is then followed by JOBA’s incredible outro. Intensely composed, the outro makes the distortions to JOBA’s voice and the echoing back-vocals work perfectly. JOBA reverses the heaviness half-way through, slipping into a deceptively peppy ending as he raps about alcohol and drug abuse as a means of escape.
Maggie McHale: Nearing the album’s halfway point, listeners break from “WHERE THE CASH AT” immediately into “WEIGHT,” which also feels like a softer, matured counterpart to one of BROCKHAMPTON’s earlier tracks, “GUMMY.” The song opens with Kevin Abstract grappling with accepting his homosexuality, lamenting his initial denial and feeling like he had a “problem.” Moreover, Abstract recalls life before BROCKHAMPTON’s inevitable record deal [with RCA], contrarily noting that though his personal life was rife with struggle, his professioanl life was once so simple. In the end, though, he notes: “I don’t wanna waste no more time,” moving onward and upward; “WEIGHT” is undoubtedly Abstract’s strongest entry on iridescence.
Furthermore, McLennon notes in his verse that “the road to peace is filled with snakes,” and “sometimes you gotta step back and check your own intentions,” grappling with the past and the struggles that have wrought BROCKHAMPTON and their successes. JOBA, too, remains wholly transparent in the song’s outro, exclaiming that “pressure makes [him] lash back,” which dually notes that BROCKHAMPTON may not be totally blameless for their struggles. “WEIGHT” is a glimmering moment on the album overall, and acutely sums up the record’s overarching themes with precise narration.
James Crowley: “WEIGHT” may be my favorite track from iridescence. Every member shows the various pressures of adulthood and success in their own unique way, and the beat seamlessly transitions throughout. Kevin Abstract’s discussions of his life before coming out are some of the most moving on the record:
And she was mad cause I never wanna show her off
And every time she took her bra off, my dick would get soft
I thought I had a problem
Dom McLennon’s verse builds as the music swells from what was once a very energetic track. The string centric beat that enters emphasizes the titular weight that McLennon feels as he raps toward the line “You never needed them if they make you another villain.” This leads to JOBA’s outro where he goes from a loud, yelping pain to a numb, medicated pain. It’s relatable to anyone that’s drowned some form of mental illness in drugs or booze.
urooj rizvi: Violins on this track are stirring and set the undertone as Sammy Jo’s intro gives way to Kevin Abstract’s rolling chorus. JOBA’s verse is versatile, hitting a high one moment and a low the next and bearface’s vocals follow a similar movement. It’s Matt Champion’s “money walk, money talk but money no make comfortable” that propels the song into being more than just an appreciation of wealth and stardom. From here on, JOBA’s “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m still depressed” is not only perfectly delivered but balances the bitter irony of mental health with the previous relay of ‘successful’ images. The outro puts Abstract and bearface together in a layered stream of reverb and pensive guitar as “DISTRICT” fades off into its end.
Maggie McHale: “DISTRICT” simply poses one question: What does one do with their wealth? BROCKHAMPTON aim to answer this by saying, who the fuck cares? Despite money and fame and fortune, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if everything else still feels like shit. Matt Champion offers one of the track’s most poignant lines, stating that “big ass house and big ass car don’t add up when you die alone.” Are material things really measurable for happiness? No, and so says JOBA: “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m still depressed!” Despite their explosive and impressive successes, at the end of the day, it means nothing without internal peace and acceptance.
James Crowley: This could’ve been one of BROCKHAMPTON’s weaker tracks, but by the time Matt Champion raps, “Big ass house and big ass car don’t add up when you die alone,” it shows the relative vapidity of making a ton of money. As the old saying goes, money can’t buy happiness. When JOBA shouts, “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m still depressed,” it’s part sarcastic, part thankful that he’s able to keep making art. To some extent, it feels like a repetition of Kanye West’s bipolar equals superpower lyric on ye. JOBA does seem more self-aware than West though.
urooj rizvi: This is an interesting interlude that fits into the larger project of BROCKHAMPTON’s exploration of what it means to be successful and wealthy. The excerpt is taken from an interview of Cam’ron by DJ Whoo Kid in 2016 where the rapper directly talks of his own exploitation, as a new artist, at the hands of big record labels. Perhaps this indicates an awareness on their part, that even as they have been signed onto a major record label, they know the perils of a deal as big as their own. It provides a well-timed moment of reflection and thought, indicating both self-awareness and sensitivity to the larger, often exploitative structures that operate in the music industry, destabilizing the very meaning of ‘success’.
Maggie McHale: “LOOPHOLE” recognizes the problems with navigating the music industry in a way that is both beneficial and practical. Since signing with RCA earlier in 2018, BROCKHAMPTON have not been shy to their own pragmatism. They put off releasing three other records before ultimately releasing iridescence, and opted not to include any of their three summer singles, “1999 WILDFIRE,” “1998 DIANA,” and “1997 TRUMAN” on this new record. Instead, they released an album without any prior buzzworthy singles (except for “J’OUVERT,” which was released just one day before the album’s release), overhauling industry norms and carving their own path. “LOOPHOLE” extracts the issues that remain rampant in the music industry, shining a spotlight on them in hopes of making a change.
James Crowley: “LOOPHOLE” probably rings true for any artist trying to lay their footing in industry. You try to navigate, and you hope to find some people that can help, but you will find some people that aren’t your friends.
urooj rizvi: “TAPE” turns the questioning gaze inwards, with each of the four rappers reaching into themselves to introspect, admitting their fears in what turns into one of the heavier, intensely personal tracks of the album. Kevin Abstract’s verse is terse and guilt ridden as he raps about the damage he thinks he has done to his mother by previously deriding her for her homophobia and non-acceptance. “The words had damage and it’s cruel to me / But even more cruel to be / Dissing you in front of niggas that pay to hear me” does more than just implicate Abstract in the worsening of his mother’s health condition- it touches upon how their collective trauma has been commodified and is now ‘sold’ to audiences. JOBA’s verse is just as moving and it looks directly into his feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, the pathos of which is channeled into affective lyrics like “and through the years I’ve dealt with / tragedy after tragedy / God, send a message” and “Feel the light that I was blessed with has diminished.”
Matt Champion examines the difficulty of being himself in the midst of the band’s success and the inability to express how he really feels for the fear of being told “You lucky where you at / You cool but quit complaining ‘bout all that.” The violin is deeply stirring and leads into Dom McLennon’s closing verse. Angst-ridden and strained, he raps about both his failures (“I don’t always remember to call goodnight”) and his struggle with mental health (“Brain disease, parasite, eating me from inside”). Sampling Radiohead’s “Videotape” all through is just brilliant execution and the violin makes a comeback, drawing up an effective conclusion to a brutally honest and bitterly ironic track.
Maggie McHale: Poignantly reflecting on relationships yet again, “TAPE” references a plethora of interpersonal connections, from Kevin Abstract’s acknowledgements of his mother’s declining health and their strained relationship to Matt Champion’s fear of developing feelings for someone. Simultaneously, JOBA and Dom McLennon fight for peace with their relationships to themselves, admitting their own faults and failures to communicate. “TAPE” shines light on BROCKHAMPTON’s personal world, marketing their misgivings as a central theme.
James Crowley: “TAPE” is built on fear, and it feels like each rapper is at their most unhinged. The track shows some fear of attachment, imposter syndrome, and nihilism. Built on a mellow instrumental that has a manic drum track, it shows how there’s often detached, mellow disassociation connected to fear and depression, but a sense of anxiety that pushes it forward. This is also the moment that each rapper shines the most lyrically, as they seem the most straightforward.
urooj rizvi: The only single off this album is equipped with some aggressive, high-quality rapping, especially from JOBA and implicitly references both Ameer Vann’s removal from the band as well as the Caribbean origins of member-producer Jabari Manwa. The pace switches up from verse to verse and “J’OUVERT” owns its unpredictability with solid panache. From Matt Champion’s hint at the Vann scandal with “When there’s a rough patch, don’t eye for the parachute” to Merlyn Wood’s “I found myself and put my face on a missing shirt,” there is no lack of vocal talent on display here. JOBA is, however, the real standout on this song and he delivers his verse such unsparing honesty that it’s impossible not to admire him. Throwing up both accusations and admissions with “Don’t act like I don’t deserve this shit” and “Couldn’t last a day inside my head / That’s why I did the drugs I did,” he carries the emotional tension of the track singlehandedly, complimented all too well by the verses of Matt Champion and Merlyn Wood.
Maggie McHale: Undoubtedly this album’s most aggressive track, “J’OUVERT” fights tooth and nail for BROCKHAMPTON’s worth. The track, which serves as the only song released before the record’s release – albeit just one day early – finds the members of BROCKHAMPTON proclaiming their value into the ether while concurrently admitting their faults (i.e., the Ameer Vann scandal that definitively altered BROCKHAMPTON’s future earlier this year). Showing that they need not be defined nor held back by their past, “J’OUVERT” gives BROCKHAMPTON a platform to further prove their resilience.
James Crowley: JOBA’s verse is what makes “J’OUVERT” a great track and more than just an overblown interlude. All respect to Matt Champion, bearface, and Merlyn Wood, but JOBA shouting the second verse feels like you just said the wrong thing to him, and he’s grabbing you by the shoulders to show you why he deserves his success. The middle of the verse where he screams, “Misunderstood since birth / Fuck what you think, and fuck what you heard / I feel betrayed” is the centerpiece to this jam.
urooj rizvi: Featuring a sample from Beyonce and an earlier BROCKHAMPTON track, “HONEY” is a bit of a banger, weaving in reverb and a bumping beat expertly through the track. Dom McLennon’s verse is searing and takes a hard look at the ‘problem’ of race in America. Deftly put into the acidic “’Cause they turn the other cheek when our niggas start to die / When our women start to die, when our children start to die / I don’t feel their empathy, we been displaced too many times,” McLennon is unforgiving about the little that is done to address the damage that large-scale indifference and social unrest has done to the black community. The segue brings the Beyonce sample in in a riot of sound and the bridge features the Matt Champion sample from “BUMP” before Kevin Abstract closes off the song in an outro that is reminiscent of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd combined.
Maggie McHale: “HONEY” offers an intriguing dichotomy of dance-worthy production and cognizant storytelling, forcing listeners to examine sociopolitical issues while bopping along to its light instrumentation. The song primarily focuses on cultural bias, with Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon delivering empowering and impassioned narratives that outline the racial issues they constantly face. Particularly, “HONEY” serves as McLennon’s star moment on iridescence, as he lays out his biting verse that outright acknowledges social injustices brought upon African-Americans, and how our judicial system fails to recompense for these prejudices, feeling no empathy as “they turn the other cheek.”
James Crowley: “HONEY” is the sort of track that attracted me to BROCKHAMPTON in the first place. It’s infectious instrumental is undeniably fun, despite the dire subject matter of Dom McLennon’s verse. It’s a song escaping poverty, and McLennon’s verse adds a much more serious connotation to Kevin Abstract’s chorus of “A million reasons to get rich.” It’s a reactionary track disguised as a celebratory track.
urooj rizvi: Without a doubt, the most impressive thing about “VIVID” is its wildly unusual and absolutely memorable chorus. The soft intro makes for a greater impact for Matt Champion’s badass entry in Spanish and the catchy back-tune. The chorus carries a real kick with its “ee-ee-ee-ee woah woah woah woah” that could somehow could uphold as a track in itself. Self assurance surges forward on Dom McLennon’s verse as he raps proudly “We claim this spot from the basement.” bearface’s verse is a wonderful shift of pitch and mood, endearingly arrogant with its “we get money, get dough” and it adds to the textured and wacky depth of “VIVID.” Kevin Abstract’s outro echoes itself, layered over the absurdly catchy “ee ee ee ee woah woah woah” as the track bows out, an impressively fun and engaging listen.
Maggie McHale: The only song to outright reference the album’s title (“Radiation is present, got my reflection iridescent”), “VIVID” further discusses BROCKHAMPTON’s path, and the perceptions outsiders have on them. With bearface’s M.I.A-inspired bridge, one feels as though BROCKHAMPTON is poking fun at their fame, while remaining hyper-aware of the luck and opportunity that they have been fortunate enough to receive as of late.
James Crowley: This is basically just a tribute to BROCKHAMPTON’s greatness. It’s a fun, energetic track. It talks about their success in a manner that’s more celebratory than in some of the sadder songs on this album. It’s about following drive and continued growth, while still showing that the group is cool as fuck; best demonstrated in the line “If your perception ain’t ascending, it’s no reason for extension.”
urooj rizvi: From Matt Champion’s verse full of sharp questions to bearface’s striking vocalization over the guitar, from JOBA’s bittersweet self-examination to the London Community Gospel Choir’s feature, what is it that “SAN MARCOS” does not have? Not only is it boundary-breaking in terms of genre and what is expected from a track on a hip-hop album, it remains committed to the album’s larger project of exploring what is immensely personal to its creators. Champion’s low-pitched, robotic intro is softened by the guitar and implicitly examines party culture inherent within conceptions of fame and success. bearface shines on the chorus here, almost shy in the way he sings. Dom McLennon’s verse is tightly packed with his vocal prowess and some great lyrics (“Tryna catch me liberating spirits from the gallows” and “Could be stronger than vibranium, don’t mean that I ain’t fragile”). JOBA is softer on this track but just as moving as before with the distortion to his voice kept to a minimum. “I know that I’m changing” is just the right prelude to the choir’s feature. The choral outro is not just gorgeous but also follows through on the optimism of Joba’s verse, adding the beauty to “SAN MARCOS,” leaving the listener’s heart full for long after.
Maggie McHale: The album’s most genre-bending track, “SAN MARCOS” examines the darker side of fame, narrating binge-drinking and pill-taking and suicidal tendencies. “SAN MARCOS” broaches these topics with raw honesty and clarity, allowing listeners to feel intimately invested in BROCKHAMPTON’s feelings. The track also includes the London Community Gospel Choir professing, “I want more out of life than this,” further cementing the idea that everything that BROCKHAMPTON has rightfully achieved still is not all that it’s cracked up to be. “SAN MARCOS” exemplifies the group’s inherent ability for showcasing their emotions with true intention, never once seeming disingenuous in the ways that they narrate their stories.
James Crowley: The emo-revival lives on, and it’s name is BROCKHAMPTON. With an instrumental that is reminiscent of Deja Entendu-era Brand New, each member gives a hungover description of a party. Sure, there’s a ton of fun to be had, but sometimes the constant partying is a way to cope with the difficult realities of life. As the London Community Gospel Choir sings, “I want more out of life than this,” a listener can’t help but notice the vicious cycle that partying can cause. It’s a temporary release from the rut that so many of us find ourselves in.
urooj rizvi: “TONYA” is another soft track off the album but it takes a hard look at what it means to be as ‘suddenly famous’ as BROCKHAMPTON has come to be in the past year. Interspersed between each of the boys’ verses is the serpentwithfeet chorus, heavy with nostalgia. bearface waltzes us into the song over his dreamy vocals, in a style reminiscent of musicians like lontalius. Kevin Abstract takes on the second verse just as the piano disappears and the beat kicks in, frustratingly good and impeccably placed. Lyrically solid with lines like “my life is I, Tonya / A big-eyed monster, only face to conquer,” JOBA is wondrous on the bridge and Dom McLennon’s verse is almost jarring in contrast. His verse is rife with conflict, both with himself and with those around him (“A victim of Stockholm in my friends and family”). Merlyn Wood is lucid and acutely moving on the last verse, laying out the difficulties he faced when he chose to pursue music. Tonya Harding, as a popular culture figure, works in the track through implicit suggestion as a metaphor for the “down-side” of fame, a fear that all the boys have and struggle with, aggravated perhaps by the abuse allegations against Ameer Vann and his removal from the group. “TONYA” ties into both old and new trauma and gives the right mood and sound to each of its musicians to both explore and express their grief.
Maggie McHale: Listeners should recognize “TONYA” from earlier this summer, when BROCKHAMPTON performed it live on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon back in May.“TONYA” reflects on the exponential growth BROCKHAMPTON has skyrocketed into in the last year, and how it has impacted their lives. The song is laced with regrets and empty promises, and wishing that things could be better despite acknowledging that the past cannot be changed. Serpentwithfeet adds fluid emotionality to the song’s chorus, feeling wholly evocative of a reminiscent past. “TONYA” gently invites its listeners to remove the rose-colored glasses, to see life as plainly as possible.
James Crowley: Serpentwithfeet’s chorus sums up the nihilistic cloud that looms over “TONYA.” There’s a certain feeling that none of the fame, relationships, or money really mean anything. The instrumental is cold, and it reflects some of the anger and depression that comes with building a career that may not really amount to anything. Some things change, but some stay the same. Fame doesn’t fix every problem.
urooj rizvi: If there is a perfect ending, then this is it. Stunning from start to finish, “FABRIC” features not only excellent writing and pitch experimentation but a rap-verse from bearface himself. Kevin Abstract’s verse is bitingly poetic (“I tell myself that love will be the thing to keep us from grieving”) and levels an attack on fans’ expectations for continuous content and media-houses like the BBC that had nothing to say about BROCKHAMPTON until the Ameer Vann controversy. Dom McLennon draws up parallels between himself and Nikola Tesla in the following verse, expressing how he’s “scared of what can happen when ideas will consume you.” The real standouts on this track come up after Abstract’s chorus. Merlyn Wood’s verse is sheer brilliance over the bare plucking of the electric guitar. Joba’s verse is like listening to different versions of him at once, his stretching vocal emphasis on “me” working all too well. bearface’s ominous, robotically futuristic rap-verse is another treat, testifying to the versatility and creativity of both him and the band in question. Over a thumping drum-beat, the chorus withers out. Fabric ends on an outro, almost like a promise with the voices of both performing and non-performing members echoing one another.
With iridescence at its end, it’s hard to listen to anything but BROCKHAMPTON simply because they set the bar so incredibly high. Constantly reshaping and resisting the conventionalities of hip-hop music, it is no understatement to say that BROCKHAMPTON is essentially a game-changing act. Their fifth record is an incredible and powerful album that speaks to the excellence of its production, its eloquent lyricism and more than anything else, to the expansive and ever-changing talent of a legendary fourteen-member boyband.
Maggie McHale: A stunning farewell to an irrefutably dynamic record, “FABRIC” sends listeners off to reflect upon iridescence’s threaded themes. The song discusses how despite all they’ve been through in the last year, BROCKHAMPTON have still nonetheless aimed to be as authentic as possible with themselves and those around them, never compromising their vision or allowing external opinions to take over. BROCKHAMPTON have always done things the way that they want to do them – an admirable trait in an industry so oft diluted as music. “FABRIC” recognizes that there is no going back, but regardless BROCKHAMPTON will do everything in their power to stay ahead of the curve and work by their own volition
James Crowley: Serving as the wrapping note for the record, “FABRIC” serves as the clearest and most straightforward track on the album, while exploring the same wide range of dynamics that iridescence walked through. At its core, iridescence is a record about struggling with your own growth. While the members of BROCKHAMPTON reckon with the music industry, the harm that past members have caused, their interpersonal relationships, and the world around them, they need to face themselves first. bearface’s verse explores this conflict the most:
Why the fuck would you share this shit with these people?
I don’t know these people
I don’t know you either, no more
I’m at war with myself
Every time I see this shit I wanna kill myself
Nonetheless, if iridescence is the start to another trilogy, as BROCKHAMPTON have stated, the final moments of the record promises some uplifting material to come, as members state: “These are the best years of our lives.”
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