For the past nine months, the boy band Brockhampton has been in flux. In 2017, the group released three studio albums in the “Saturation” trilogy. The three albums established the 14-member group with the mainstream audience, the final two installments debuting on the Billboard 200 chart. The albums brought ideas and sounds to hip-hop that are rarely explored in the genre, drawing from other genres like R&B, funk and alternative rock.
But in the wake of all their success, one of Brockhampton’s most prominent members, Ameer Vann, faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Though Vann denied the allegations and acknowledged that he had been verbally and mentally abusive, Brockhampton fired him shortly after.
At the time Vann was fired, Brockhampton planned to release a new album, “Puppy,” in June 2018, but the band shelved the album indefinitely after Vann’s accusations were made public.
With Vann gone, the group hit the reset button. In an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” in which they performed the song “Tonya,” the boy band announced a new album that would later be named “Iridescence.” It was slated to release on Sept. 21. The album dropped and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, a feat for a band that released music independently until this year.
“Iridescence” is Brockhampton at its most experimental. Many of the album’s songs don’t have a true structure, and not many songs on the album have a hook. This is not necessarily a bad thing. With the album’s unpredictability, it can be exciting not to know what to expect — especially during the first listen.
This album can be off-putting at first, as listening to the album the first time, you hear many sounds that the group has never tried before with the “Saturation” albums. Rapper Dom McLennon’s voice is often cloaked in effects, which doesn’t always go over well. For instance, McLennon’s voice is altered on the song “Honey” when he sings at the 40-second mark and sounds almost like a bee from the “Bee Movie.”
Though McLennon’s voice isn’t always maximized on “Iridescence,” Joba stood out on the album more than he has on any of Brockhampton’s previous releases, with all of his talents being put on full display. “J’Ouvert” displays a side of Joba that hasn’t been heard since “Heat” on “Saturation I.” And for that song, it truly was just Joba screaming “I’ll break your neck so you can watch your back.” But on “J’Ouvert,” Joba raps gruffly and confidently about past issues with depression, suicidal thoughts and an abusive relationship. On every beat that was thrown at him on “Iridescence,” he killed it.
Merlyn Wood showed his lyrical prowess on tracks like “Where the Cash At” and “J’Ouvert,” where he offered more than just his usual presentation of screaming. Both of these guys showed great progression in their rapping and artistry overall.
I truly wish that Matt Champion had a standout song. He didn’t have a part of a song that I felt truly stood out to me compared to some songs in the “Saturation” series like “Rental” and “Junky.” In “Junky” on “Saturation II,” Champion had a career-defining verse in which he talks about what people expect out of women with the line, “I hate these shady folk that want a ladylike / But don’t treat lady right.”
I hope that the next album they make will include more of him.
This album also used more of Bearface’s angelic voice. He challenged himself by not just singing in melodic ways, like with the song “Tonya,” where he shifts between singing hooks and verses. This is new as Bearface was used during the “Saturation” series for ballads like “Summer.”
The album’s best song is “San Marcos,” which features melodic vocals from Bearface and from the London Community Gospel Children’s Choir. The pairing blended together through the whole song.
The song that shifted the whole album was “Weight,” which features one of Kevin Abstract’s best verses, discussing his issues with his sexuality and not knowing who he truly is.
“Weight” is when the album flips into a more likeable stretch of tracks that becomes more experimental and deeper in character. “Weight” has a great beat switch from a moody ballad into a fast-paced, techno-influenced breakbeat.
This album was far different without Vann, as his rapping style brought an edge to the group that no one else can really fill. With his meditations on the streets and where he grew up, it was refreshing to hear that grittier side of the group. Vann being gone isn’t a detriment to the group with creativity or the group’s rapping prowess, but the bite of realism that the group had before is largely gone. However, his absence leaves more space for everyone else to grow. Joba and Wood develop greatly in this new era.
Even without Vann, “Iridescence” is Brockhampton’s most experimental LP so far, which creates even more excitement for the band’s future. “Iridescence” includes a lot of high points with some small hiccups, but I think that this album has helped start the post-Vann era in the right way. Things can only go up from here.