BY JOSEPH STURGEON
Released September 21, 2018, “iridescence” is BROCKHAMPTON’s first studio album since the removal of Ameer Vann from the group following accusations against the rapper of sexual assault. Lead by vocalist Kevin Abstract, the self-proclaimed “boy band” BROCKHAMPTON released three studio albums in 2017, known as the “SATURATION” trilogy. The “SATURATION” trilogy was critically acclaimed among fans and reviewers alike and ultimately landed the group a record deal with RCA Records in March 2018.
BROCKHAMPTON is popular for addressing topics that are considered rather taboo in hip-hop, such as hypermasculinity, homosexuality and mental health. The group’s de-facto leader Kevin Abstract came out as gay in late 2016 with his “Empty” music video, and BROCKHAMPTON vocalist Dom McLennon wrote an open letter about self-harm and anxiety in October 2017.
Despite the absence of founding member Ameer Vann and the group completely transforming the sound they molded with the “SATURATION” trilogy, BROCKHAMPTON continued to address these topics in “iridescence.” In “TAPE,” vocalist Kevin Abstract raps, “I want a male stripper to do a belly dance/For me and my boyfriend that’s entertainment,” as one of many references to his sexuality throughout the album.
In an interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio One, Abstract explained the following:
“I don’t want to be labeled as [a] ‘queer rapper.’ I just want to be a rapper. I have to exist in a homophobic space in order to make change, and that homophobic space would be the hip hop community,” Abstract said. “So me just existing and being myself is making change and making things easier for other young queer kids. I want to be me and express that and break new ground along the way.”
In the “SATURATION” trilogy, BROCKHAMPTON stuck to a conventional hip-hop sound, using mostly computer-generated instruments and sounds. On “iridescence,” however, the band recorded at Abbey Road in London and incorporated strings, piano and enlisted the help of the London Community Gospel Choir on track 13, entitled “SAN MARCOS.”
As mentioned earlier, mental health is an issue BROCKHAMPTON has repeatedly addressed in their lyrics. Throughout “iridescence,” vocalist JOBA makes several references to depression and anxiety. On track 7, “DISTRICT,” he talks about how people often turn to different things to find happiness with the lyrics “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m still depressed/At war with my conscience, paranoid, can’t find that.” With this line, JOBA is referring to how he believes that some people turn to religion for the wrong reasons, and that religion won’t automatically grant happiness.
While “iridescence” is full of interesting twists and turns that give the album an element of unpredictability, the lack of structure of many of the songs is a weak point of the album. The lack of hooks or the amount of verses leave one song feeling empty, and another feeling too compact and saturated.
Despite this, many of the lyrics in “iridescence” give the album a lot more meaning and substance, something many tracks on the “SATURATION” trilogy lacked. While many songs throughout the “SATURATION” trilogy seemed rushed and like mere fillers, “iridescence” has a stronger focus and an evident theme. After losing one of the group’s integral members, BROCKHAMPTON made up for the loss by utilizing other members that didn’t have as big of a part in the band prior to Ameer Vann’s removal. Overall, despite minor issues with structure, “iridescence” makes for a solid listen.
- Great lyrics
- It just sounds good
- Structure issues
- Gets repetitive at times with themes
Photo by Alexa Jaspan