BROCKHAMPTON redefines rap in popular culture


William Ryan, Contributer

On Aug. 25, three major worldwide commercial hip-hop albums were released. These albums were A$AP Mob’s “Cozy Tapes 2,” Lil Uzi Vert’s “Luv is Rage 2,” and XXXTENTACTION’s “17.” However, the best, most provocative album released on this date seemed to fly under most everybody’s radar: “Saturation II” by BROCKHAMPTON, a Los Angeles-based collective.

Even if BROCKHAMPTON founder Kevin Abstract identifies the group as a boy band and not a rap group, it is a new name for people to remember in the realm of hip-hop. This group consists of 17 members ranging from rappers and visual artists to music producers, photographers and art directors. They all come together to deliver a compelling aesthetic visually and sonically.

The theme of struggle is evident in the album “Saturation II,” but BROCKHAMPTON is uniquely able to manipulate different types of pain into a mass sound of prosperity. They convey the struggle from different perspectives experiences include homosexuality, growing up as an impoverished African-American, and even suffering as a misfit white guy. One of their primary goals is to erase social stigmas. For example, they self-identify as a “boy band,” while retaining a social mission that’s foreign to most pop boy bands.

Furthering their defiance of the norm, BROCKHAMPTON has the nerve to not only be openly gay in America, but to create song lyrics that are true thoughts from a homosexual and offer this to the rap world like it’s already the norm.

“Why you always rap about being gay?” Kevin Abstract said. “‘Cause not enough [people] rap and be gay!”

He definitely raps without hesitation in “JUNKY,” which Complex Magazine recently named “Verse of the Month.” Overall, BROCKHAMPTON’s insistence on doing their own thing in every possible way is reminiscent of the hit group Odd Future.

The introduction song, “GUMMY,” provides a powerful, in-your-face instrumental that’s familiar to the hip-hop audience. Lyrics introduce an extended theme of struggle, which is later transformed into positivity. Dom McLennon’s words exemplify this as he skillfully portrays the issue of police brutality against African-Americans: “I could get shot in the back and they’d tell the world that I fought em.”

BROCKHAMPTON contradicts the typical rap rhetoric about money, cars and materialism with a smoothly delivered chorus: “Cash don’t mean (nothing), I cried my last tears.”

The album segues nicely with experimental styles and sounds on songs like “TEETH,” where Ameer Vann produces a stellar verse, and “TOKYO,” a delightfully melodic approach with a very distinctive beat. Also, “JUNKY” creates an almost eerie-yet-appealing listening experience, offering ambitious, down-to-earth verses that continue for four minutes.

However, tracks 13 and 14 are the climax of “Saturation II.” In fact, if one had to bet on a radio smash hit, the choice might be track 13, “SWEET.” Matt Champion, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Ameer Vann and JOBA deliver varied yet connected verses that fit pleasantly with Kevin Abstract’s hook.

On the contrary, “GAMBA” uses a more emotional approach. Sentimental, heartfelt anecdotes come into play: “’Cause I ain’t perfect, I just wanna be good to you …” which perfectly portrays everything from the struggle people go through in love to the enjoyment and passion that love brings.

Dom McLennon never specifies that these lines are about a person he is attracted to. They could be interpreted as describing his love for music and how he wants to use music for the good of society. The tune is comparable to an early Kid Cudi or Kanye West track, but it is a unique work of the boy band’s own making. The album closes with its last two tracks, which conclude with a gratifying resolution that ties the album together.

Though the group lacks the lyrical dominance of Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, BROCKHAMPTON’s talent is captured well in its work, both sonically and artistically.

Kevin Abstract is known for creating captivating music videos, which are widely acclaimed by his critics and audience. Even though “Saturation II” was spectacular, this is a revolutionary group whose best is just around the corner. Their newest album shines fresh light on the name BROCKHAMPTON and encourages people to remember it, because they’re here to stick around.