Reviews

BROCKHAMPTON: Saturation Trilogy Review

BROCKHAMPTON are a boyband from Los Angeles, California who have gained widespread acclaim in 2017 thanks to this trilogy of albums, something Kevin Abstract is coining as the ‘Saturation Era’ and the reason for this title is simple; BROCKHAMPTON are here to saturate the rap game and make it literally impossible to ignore them. This is a review of the trilogy and the impact it has had on the genre as a whole.

Saturation I

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The first of the saga came out in June of 2017 and was accompanied by four singles, titled ‘FACE’, ‘HEAT’, ‘GOLD’ and ‘STAR’; all of which show the immense diversity of the group. All of these singles are fantastic tracks and it is no coincidence they were chosen to be the previews for fans. ‘FACE’ has a sensual touch to it which points at personal struggle and the feeling of being alone. As for the other three, they’re the first three songs on the album and I don’t think I have heard an album open this well all year. ‘HEAT’ is pure insanity and contains some hard verses behind a dirty instrumental; ‘GOLD’ has one of the best hooks BROCKHAMPTON have ever done and Matt Champion has the standout verse on an immense showing from the group. My personal favourite of the three is without doubt ‘STAR’ however, a song in which Dom McLennon, Ameer Vann and Kevin Abstract try their best to outdo each other over an infectious beat. The celebrity references are incredible and so recognisable, it was a brilliant way to introduce the group’s personality to us all.

Another quirky and charismatic part of the album was the three ‘SKIT’ songs they have in which member Robert Ontenient tells proverbs in Spanish, setting up for the next song in a unique way and helping the album flow with much more ease and fluidity. We also need to give a huge shoutout to Romil, Jabari and Kiko for their fantastic production ventures on this album, it is no holds barred to the core and shows that they can create a hip-hop banger and a heartbreaking ballad on the same project.

Once the album came out we were treated to yet more variety on songs such as ‘FAKE’ and ‘SWIM’ which showed autotuned vocals being used to maximum effect, with obvious influences of Kid Cudi and 808’s era Kanye West. Little would we realise also that the finale of the album, ‘WASTE’, would become the first of a series of guitar-heavy ballads performed by Bearface, occupying the role of playing the album out in all three projects and this one really is a thing of beauty. This album was so fresh and incredible to hear at a time when hip-hop needed it most, new ideas which would blossom into something remarkable.

Best Member performances: Dom McLennon on ‘STAR’, Ameer Vann on ‘GOLD’, Merlyn on ‘CASH’

Saturation II

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So the hype was there and we weren’t left too long before the ‘Saturation’ follow up was released and it was then announced to be a trilogy, with the third coming out later in the year. ‘Saturation II’ was released on 25th August, an impressive two months after the first one so the jury was out to see if BROCKHAMPTON could deliver once again. Well, they needn’t have worried, because the group were only getting better with time here and it is often acknowledged as an improvement on the debut and somewhat of a short-term maturity to the sound.

The singles, ‘GUMMY’, ‘SWAMP’, ‘JUNKY’ and ‘SWEET’ are all evidence of a rap heavy BROCKHAMPTON album on their own terms, they have elements of personal flavour and struggle, but for the most part we have ice cold flows, catchy hooks and wild instrumentals. Basically all four singles are just incredible and I would say that at the time of release, ‘SWEET’ and ‘GUMMY’ became my two favourite songs they have done, particularly ‘SWEET’ which contains two phenomenal verses from the group’s two strangest members, Merlyn and Joba. ‘GUMMY’ opens the album brilliantly with these angelic strings playing before cutting into a fantastic rap beat, this is perhaps my favourite aspect of BROCKHAMPTON, their ability to transition beats so effortlessly.

There aren’t a million and one differences between this and the first one but quite frankly that doesn’t matter, the sound is still so fresh that they could have literally released the same thing and it would have been enjoyed equally as much as the first. One thing I particularly took from the second Saturation project was the lean towards more rapping and more hip-hop vibes rather than low-fi anthems and slow jams. This is far from an issue, however as the group deliver some of their best content ever and create memories fans can remember forevermore.

Best Member Performances: Joba on ‘SWEET’, Matt Champion on ‘JUNKY’, Kevin Abstract on ‘GUMMY’

Saturation III

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After months of waiting, teasing release dates and even rumours of a break up, Saturation 3 was released on 15th December which completed the year long trilogy of albums. There was plenty of pressure going into this due to the widespread critical success of the previous two albums, but our very own Soutside One Direction delivered and they delivered hard. On the week of release we were given ‘BOOGIE’, the album’s opener and lead single and quite frankly it blew my head off when I first heard it. The beat is wild and every single member is on fire, from Kevin’s hook to Joba’s insane bridge and Dom’s catchy verse. ‘STAINS’ then followed and although it is now my least favourite song on the album, back when I initially heard it I loved it.

Some personal highlights on this song is the experimental ventures they take with the production. ‘HOTTIE’ and ‘SISTER/NATION’ have gorgeous production and the progression of the songs is an absolute treat, particularly on the latter mentioned song. It has like three beat switches and it fluctuates between hype and crazed to mellow and reflective; all of which are supported by fantastic vocal performances, particularly from Matt and Dom. An absolutely colossal shoutout is required to the ‘CINEMA’ skit tracks too, where Roberto is quirky and brilliant even if you can’t understand a word of his Spanish lingo. The instrumentals on those ‘CINEMA’ tracks were inspired by DIsney soundtracks according to Romil and I would love to hear these guys soundtrack it one day.

This album is a champagne popping celebration of Brockhampton as a whole and it crowns the trilogy off beautifully; a real victory lap for the boyband who have stolen the hearts of the music industry in 2017. The album has shown an enormous sense of maturity from the start of the year to now and also a fantastic display of characterisation in their diverse subject matter, being able to craft a wonderful concept with catchy songs. ‘STUPID’ looks at the idea of homosexuality and the struggles of living in a homophobic society while ‘LIQUID’ and ‘BLEACH’ look at loneliness and the fear of having nobody there by your side; both of which really are quite beautiful while also fitting the criteria of catchy rap songs.

Best Member Performances: Matt Champion on ‘SISTER/NATION’, Dom McLennon on ‘SISTER/NATION’, Kevin Abstract on ‘STUPID’

Overall: 9/10

This trilogy is simply stunning. it shows the progression not just of the group, but also the development of each individual member as an artist. Kevin has matured and become more and more wholesome by the day; Merlyn has tuned into his inner self and become very personal in his verses and Dom McLennon has stepped up his game in terms of flow and delivery. Matt Champion has confirmed himself as one of the best white rappers alive and Bearface has melted our hearts three times with his gorgeous prom ballads. Ameer has announced himself as an elite level rapper with ice cold flow and a deadly delivery and Joba’s diversity over the albums has been a beautiful cherry atop of the Brockhampton cake.

For those with a keen eye and a lot of research you would’ve recognised a few factors that were subtly genius. First and foremost, we have the song titles. On Sat 1 the songs are all four letters apart from the finale which is five letters, Sat 2 has all songs being five letters apart from, yep you guessed it, the finale which is six letters. Last but not least Sat 3 has every song six letters in length apart from the finale which is…. FOUR LETTERS LONG. One large cycle which spans right back to the first installment. Also, the end of TEAM, the last song on Saturation 3, samples the beginning of HEAT, the first song on Saturation 1, meaning the trilogy has a never ending flow to it. Mind. Blown.

If I had to pick a favourite of the three it would be the final one but all three have their own distinctive qualities that make them truly special in their own right. This is a boyband destined to stay and make history year after year, all members are talented enough to make it on their own but I will never wish for that to happen because together they are making serious waves in the hip-hop genre; long live Brockhampton and here’s to 2018 and the fourth album, ‘Team Effort’.

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