Jennifer Somers, Editor |
“Saturation II” is the second studio album by hip-hop collective BROCKHAMPTON. The album was released on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify on August 25, just two months after the release of the group’s debut album, “Saturation.”
BROCKHAMPTON is comprised of 15 creative members that live together under one roof, known as “The BROCKHAMPTON Factory,” located in Van Nuys, California. It’s in this cramped house that the members handle everything from production and writing to photography and styling. Every aspect of the group’s image and sound has been carefully crafted by the members themselves. Jam-packed like sardines in a tin can, BROCKHAMPTON thrives in an environment surrounded by young talent and innovation.
The predominantly featured members of the self-proclaimed “all-American boyband” are Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Matt Champion, Russell “JOBA” Boring, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood and Ciaran Ruaridh McDonald aka “Bearface.” After meeting in a Kanye West internet forum, it was Abstract that founded the band in 2015, naming it after the street he grew up on in Corpus Christi, Texas.
BROCKHAMPTON, inspired by the concept of 2000s group Odd Future, is bringing something new to hip-hop that no one else is currently doing. Due to the number of strong members, each with their own diverse background and musical style, every song is provocatively unique and thought-provoking. Every music video is bizarre and chaotically fitting. Though “Saturation” was new and exhilarating to listen to, “Saturation II” is proof that BROCKHAMPTON is constantly developing its own sound, discovering the extent of its abilities and pushing the envelope in terms of its beats and lyrics.
On the all-too-short track “Teeth,” Vann, whose image appears on the cover art of the album, opens the song by rapping, “My momma tried to help me, but I hardly ever listened / So she sent me to them white schools, I learned that I was different / They told me I’m a n*gga, well now I know I am.” Vann is reminiscing on his childhood in Houston, Texas of acting up, being misunderstood and feeling different because of the color of his skin. He continues his verse with a sharp tongue, saying, “I got my finger on the trigger, I’m a project baby / A free lunch felon, and I’m hungry every minute / Empty stomach, weed smoke can’t fill it.” Vann, upon taking ownership of the persona everyone else views him as, feels a void inside himself that even drugs couldn’t fill. The 20-year-old’s epic monologue is sandwiched between a choir of “ooh-ah”’s, and Vann’s story continues on throughout his verses on the rest of the album.
On “Junky,” the beat sounds eerie, almost out of tune, and each verse showcases an inner-conflict. Abstract references his own sexuality, rapping “I told my mom I was gay, why the f*ck she ain’t listen? / I signed a pub deal and her opinion f*cking disappearing.” He makes a point of stating his homophobic mother was not accepting of him when he came out and suddenly cares about him again when he started making money.
Vann’s verse depicts a dark image of his struggle with drugs. His words, “ain’t under control, I’m losing motor function / I need an intervention, I need an exorcism / I need a therapist, paranoia and drug addiction / It’s very scary, my momma don’t even recognize me,” reflect his own instability and weakness.
Wood, who has mastered a yelling style of rap, confesses in his verse, “I just wanna feel like I did the right program / I just want to appeal to my dad and my cousins / When I cut that feel I do nothing but diplomas… I forgive my mommy, daddy, auntie and my uncles / for guilt-tripping feelings whenever they call my number.” Wood went to college to be an architect before dropping out to move to California with the other band members. He feels guilty for disappointing his family and hopes to make them proud through success with BROCKHAMPTON.
“Fight” takes on Vann’s personal experience with racism. He raps, “My teachers would say / ‘Little black boys have a place in the world like hanging from trees’ / Or dead in the street like I seen on TV / All them boys they killed, they looked just like me… I was born with a target, and it stuck to my skin.” His words are powerful. They showcase the alienation he experienced in school and the oppression he feels from a bigoted society. The beat proceeds to drop, twisting into the wicked strumming of a sitar. The song is, without a doubt, one of the best on the album.
“Sweet,” a rightly-earned single, is a great introduction to the newly-established BROCKHAMPTON because it clearly exhibits each vocalist. Champion enters first and, with his slow, laid-back drawl, raps, “Whatchu mean, you ain’t got no cash?… Shouldn’t your mama be done paying the house off? / Should you have a real big-ass ego? / Shouldn’t these girls be flockin’ just like seagulls?” Champion is using rhetorical questions to juxtapose BROCKHAMPTON and today’s typical rappers, who cherish money, develop egos and marginalize women in order to fuel their own success.
Hartford, Connecticut-native McLennon, in his verse on “Sweet,” utilizes his smooth flow and bar-spitting style: “The original lick-splickety, higher than Yosemite / Breaking the mold mentally, master with no limiting / … Moses with the pen, each line an ocean I can part it at / But that’s too deep.” His lyrics are clever and slip off his tongue in a melodic rhythm.
JOBA, who is a fan of vivid facial expressions in music videos, has a distinctive sound to his voice – almost a cross between young-Eminem and Justin Timberlake. Putting on a mocking, higher-pitched voice, JOBA raps “Growing up my teachers told me / ‘You better get them grades up if you wanna finish high school / And after high school, you better get a degree / ‘Cause it’s a dog-eat-dog world, you could live in the street.’” The 23-year-old was working as an engineer at Number 6 Productions studio in Houston and actually allowed members of BROCKHAMPTON to record with his equipment before Abstract asked him to join the band.
“Saturation II” is an impeccable 16-track masterpiece that is as unique and complex as its 15 members. It tackles racism, homophobia, drug addiction and family conflicts. With “Saturation III” scheduled to come out before the end of the year, it’s nearly impossible to comprehend how this underrated hip-hop collective is able to produce and release so much quality music in such little time, but I’m living for it.