Label Volunteer, Liam Hopley, brings you Label’s first album review of the year.
Kevin Abstract once described BROCKHAMPTON as the “best boyband since One Direction”. Following the release of iridescence, they’ve now put out as many albums as Styles et al.
It’s taken them half the time to do so too, thanks partly to the manpower at their disposal. The collective’s so huge that, split evenly, their $15M record deal would leave each member with just over a million dollars each.
Vocals, production and promotion are all handled in-house by members barely older than most students. If you take the blend of sumptuous vocals, barnstorming bars and the best production in the business, you’ll begin to understand why people are so stoked to see what the future holds for BROCKHAMPTON.
The first three tracks on iridescence offer a glimpse into the boys’ versatility. Opener NEW ORLEANS is nothing if not an anthem in the vein of their previous work. THUG LIFE offers a lower-key opportunity for founder Kevin Abstract and Belfast-born crooner Bearface to do their thing. A heavily distorted Abstract brings things back down to earth on BERLIN, which drowns gloriously in a swamp of synths following a stellar verse from vocalist and production wizard Joba.
Joba has his star turn on WEIGHT, which is possibly the album’s best track, and undoubtedly one of its most emotional. Kevin, Joba and rapper Dom McLennon each discuss their vulnerabilities either side of a garage-inspired breakdown, plus an anecdote from London’s own Sammy Jo. Joba’s first contribution lands at top speed, while his second transforms a lament about self-medication into a tender refrain.
Like all the best mixtapes, iridescence is sprinkled with a stream of samples, including an extended excerpt from rap royalty Cam’ron. Beyoncé pops up on HONEY: a track channelling the infectious energy of previous singles BOOGIE and 1997 DIANA, which is blessed with a hard-hitting verse from Dom McLennon.
In stark contrast to the subject matter of many rappers’ early work, McLennon and Joba regularly discuss their respective battles with mental health issues. Dom summons a powerful analogy (and bags iridescence’s best line) on SAN MARCOS with ‘Could be stronger than vibranium / Don’t mean that I ain’t fragile’. Later in the same track, following spellbinding stuff from Bearface and Kevin, Joba delivers the album’s most soul-baring verse, which culminates in a rousing finale from the London Community Gospel Choir and an unexpected orchestral interlude.
If SAN MARCOS didn’t quite have you in tears, then TONYA might be the one to, as it’s packed with yet more of those feels. The guys long for a more innocent time, with some solos exploring the emotional rollercoaster of abruptly kicking out a senior member following disturbing allegations.
iridescence is, emotionally and production-wise, the most mature effort yet from BROCKHAMPTON, a group who stand out due to their willingness to address the existential questions that sometimes linger long after the angst of one’s teenage years has passed.
As Kevin raps on TONYA, “sometimes, it be so spot on it hurts”.
Featured image by: Liam Hopley