Ennis Horozovic / October 2017 / Review

BROCKHAMPTON—SATURATION II, Boyband Review

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The term “boyband” is often met with sighs, groans, and sarcastic laughs. In many ways, the teeny-bop sensations of years past have earned this reputation amongst the music world; unfortunately, tainting the word.

BROCKHAMPTON is an All-American boyband featuring twelve young men who—unlike other boybands—some are gay, not white, and they can rap. It’s safe to say that all three of these traits aren’t particularly common in boybands, and yet BROCKHAMPTON owns the title like no other.

But to categorize BROCKHAMPTON as anything criminally overlooks the diverse perspectives and influences represented in the group’s first three albums: hip-hop, rock, RnB, and even metal are genres sprinkledthroughout. In BROCKHAMPTON’s current year-long, three-album stretch, each project feels unique and cohesive without overlapping on sounds or vibes from one another.

SATURATION II only further establishes the versatility and beauty shown by SATURATION and All-American Trash with a diverse selection of instrumentals. Rarely do we find BROCKHAMPTON relying on the saucy, driving bass lines of much of today’s music; instead, we hear guitars, xylophones, harp plucks, etc. There’s a lot of fresh air instrumentally, and no two songs feel the same in any way.

Lyrically and vocally, both SATURATION albums are headlined by rap verses from both Ameer Vann and Dom McLennon, the group’s lead emcees. The two sound great together, with Ameer’s often cold and grimy delivery and Dom’s silky-smooth flow contrasting well. The production on SATURATION II brings out different sides of both emcees: take “SWAMP” (one of my personal favorites) for example. The song is an undeniable banger carried by great vocal performances from everyone, featuring diverse takes on Kevin Abstract’s hook of “fucking commas up from the outside.” As listeners will come to expect, Ameer’s verse is all about his past life of selling drugs and and robbing people on his way to success, while Dom takes his verse as an opportunity to reflect on his “fair-weather” friends and the effects of personal success on relationships. This is a common way BROCKHAMPTON’s two best emcees compliment each other, while maintaining their topical individuality.

When I first heard BROCKHAMPTON was made of twelve individuals, I was skeptical to say the least. Everybody loves the Wu-Tang Clan, but who loves U-God? Who loves Masta Killa? While Wu-Tang did launch great solo careers for at least six of its emcees, I think the work of U-God and Masta Killa went unnoticed for the most part. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to love those two emcees with how much less they contributed to the memorable moments in Wu-Tang’s discography. In the case of BROCKHAMPTON, while I have my favorites, I can appreciate the contributions of every member; even their webmaster Robert is a part of their albums with the monologues he delivers in Spanish. The group has only seven members contributing on the vocal front, but Dom McLennon, JOBA, and Bearface double as producers, and three other members solely contribute to production. The remaining members, HK and Ashlan Grey contribute to the group’s visuals, and Robert Ontenient serves as the group’s webmaster. Overall, BROCKHAMPTON only functions well because of each member’s contributions towards keeping their ambitions afloat.

Lyrically, there’s lots to unpack from each member. While the aforementioned Ameer and Dom carry the much of the lyrical load, there’s no shortage of fresh, new perspectives from the remaining emcees of BROCKHAMPTON. Merlyn Wood is best known for his shouted lines on most songs he appears on, grabbing your attention whether you can understand him or not. Merlyn’s vocals aren’t hollow however; his most common theme is the struggle of dealing with family expectations and the consequences of dropping out of college early. Merlyn’s search for the best possible use of his talents is captivating and very relatable for any college student who has ever been at odds with their parents’ expectations.

Matt Champion is one of the less developed emcees of BROCKHAMPTON, but nonetheless, he presents the all-too-common challenge of self esteem. Much of Matt’s content is self-deprecating and kind of sad, as there’s often a tone of trying to overcome these shortcomings he sees in himself. Nonetheless, Matt never holds back on his sense of humor and cool and calm attitude vocally.

My personal favorite, frontman Kevin Abstract, sings on many of BROCKHAMPTON’s hooks and occasionally contributes a verse. No slouch technically, and often ear-catchingly energetic, Kevin’s longing for acceptance for his gay and black identity is a recurring theme in his lyrics. One of my favorite tracks on SATURATION II, “JUNKY,” features a stellar verse from Kevin who confronts his relationship with his homophobic mother, who he claims has quieted down since he started pulling in money. He owns his homosexuality in such an unavoidable, proud, and honest way, it’s hard to not love Kevin just for how confidently he speaks about it on this album.

BROCKHAMPTON represents so much of the millennial experience in America on SATURATION II in ways just about anybody can relate to. Despite never having to deal drugs, I can relate to Ameer’s journey in growing up and moving on from the past, because everybody has something they want to escape. Regardless of where you come from, the way BROCKHAMPTON’s members present themselves as growing, young humans is relatable. In many ways, nobody in the group feels unattainable, which is something that has been a problem for me with so many role models. I may never be on a television show in my youth, I have college loans to pay off when I graduate, I don’t always believe in myself to the fullest, and I have done things I’m not proud of. I will never be Drake, but I feel like I can find myself artistically and express who I am as a unique individual just like Kevin.
SATURATION II is an album I would recommend to just about anybody for its all-too relatable content. BROCKHAMPTON has redefined (despite some people’s refusal to consider them) what it means to be a boyband in a beautiful way. I think there’s something for everybody on this album, whether it’s the unique take on hip-hop, the diverse perspectives and styles, or simply how good the album sounds. This is a group I recommend listeners keep tabs on in anticipation for the finale of the SATURATION trilogy coming out by the end of this year.

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