Returning after a nearly year-long hiatus since booting out member Ameer Vann for sexual misconduct, Brockhampton is back. This break has sonically recharged the members, but they are still dealing with the burden Vann has put on them and directly address it on their latest LP “GINGER,” released Aug. 23.
Other than Vann’s misconduct accusations, the rap collective’s fifth studio album covers topics like failed relationships, drug use, religion and loss of friends. The styling of this record is a stark contrast from the group’s hyper-aggressive breakout “SATURATION” album trilogy from 2017.
The latest release has just as much focus on the group’s reflective lyrics as its predecessors, exploring topics such as not growing up wealthy and being gay in the rap industry, but this time Brockhampton adds more somber and heartfelt lyricism.
The group begins the LP with “NO HALO,” a track used to highlight the group’s imperfections as people. Acoustic guitar and airy vocals create an apologetic tone that flows under the lyrics as the members confess their shortcomings.
“Do I matter? I'm ecstatic, I'm depressed/ More like God's special mess/Never had no halo,” Merlyn Wood raps. His verse suggests the emotional tone that is found throughout the album.
The lack of an instrumental buildup and the group’s immediate dive into layered vocals are what make “SUGAR” by far the catchiest on the album. Although it introduces the struggles of relationships, the song examines the good parts too.
“Spendin' all my nights alone, waitin' for you to call me/You're the only one I want by my side when I fall asleep.”
The lyrics suggest that although he is always waiting for his lover’s reply, he is dedicated to making things work.
A buzzing trumpet and sampling from hip hop group Three 6 Mafia’s “Break da Law ‘95” are found during the bridge of the album’s ominous climax “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT.” As the title suggests, religion is the song’s main theme. References to Islam, Native American spiritism, Christianity and Jehovah’s Witnesses are found throughout the five-minute track.
Dom McLennon opens the first verse with a biblical analogy as a tool to address someone he struggles to trust. “Hallelujah, holy lion‚ word to Judas/How I'm supposed to (Hey)‚ trust what you say is the truest?”
McLennon also raps bars referencing Buddhist practices. “Spin my words around as if you wanted a mandala for Nirvana/ Singin' a sonata towards our karma.”
The rapper borrows terms from Buddhism to claim people twist his words to as they see fit. The use of religious terms as wordplay throughout the song may off-put casual listeners, but as the group has shown in other tracks on its discography, Brockhampton is not afraid to overstep boundaries.
“DEARLY DEPARTED” starts the second half of the 12-track record strong. The song tackles the scandal surrounding Vann’s dismissal.
On the track, members take turns recounting the impact Vann had on them, and Kevin Abstract recalls the six-record deal the group signed with RCA Records before Vann’s expulsion. “RCA don't know‚ it wasn't 'bout y'all/No lies, 'bout how me and my brothers been traumatized/And I must keep creating truths and hooks to get up outta this hell for myself.”
The lyrics suggest that Vann threw the group’s trajectory off. He was the sole member on the cover of each album in the SATURATION trilogy, making it seem as though he was a major component of the group. The remaining members successfully illustrate the pain and anguish Vann caused the group, and because the track addresses such a tough subject, it is the most poignant one on the album.
The title track, “GINGER,” although only slightly more upbeat than other songs on the LP, provides much more of an optimistic outlook when compared to the rest of the album. This track adds a level of maturity to the project, covering a range of issues the members face.
The closing track only has one artist rapping through its entirety, Victor Roberts, and it is the first time he is featured on a Brockhampton album. The song, aptly named “VICTOR ROBERTS,” is the group introducing their newest member through a storytelling rap. Roberts recounts a number of traumatic experiences and hardships he endured growing up, from a home life plastered in drug abuse, to a friend betraying him at an important point in his life.
This record portrays Brockhampton as a multi-faceted group as it elicits much emotion on each song. “GINGER” shows the individuality of each group member, and proves that Brockhampton is more than a one-dimensional, in-your-face rap collective.