Reviews

In SATURATION 2, BROCKHAMPTON Shows They’re A New Kind of Boyband

Just under three months after releasing their first studio album, BROCKHAMPTON is back with SATURATION 2, the second installment to the SATURATION trilogy. With SATURATION 3 slated to be released by the end of 2017, the group shows almost unparalleled momentum and ambition in its journey to the top.

BROCKHAMPTON pushes the envelope on traditional boy bands in its uniquely self-sufficient composition, with not only rappers and vocalists but also producers, visual artists, creative directors, and managers on board. The boy band is unapologetically diverse in its makeup, and its music is intentional in tackling critical issues such as masculinity, sexuality, and racism—to name a few. As creative director Kevin Abstract states, “We are what America actually is. We speak for people of color who have a hard time expressing themselves publicly.”

In SATURATION 2, BROCKHAMPTON showcases the group’s eclectic talents and influences while building on the foundation set by the album’s predecessor, SATURATION. Returning with clever lyrics, catchy hooks deserving of the boy band label, skillful vocal effects, and genre-defying composition, BROCKHAMPTON does not disappoint with this latest release.

The album opens strong with “GUMMY.” The song begins with a gentle cinematic score that crescendos and abruptly transitions into raps layered over a simple beat. With an undeniably catchy hook, unique vocal experimentation, and a strong-willed verse addressing antiblack police brutality, “GUMMY” is a clear introduction to all that SATURATION 2 plans to—and does—accomplish.

“QUEER” immediately addresses toxic masculinity with the question, “Skinny boy, skinny boy / Where your muscles at?” while emitting confidence with the lyrics, “I’m everything they fearing / I’m black and smart and sexy / Universally appealing.” A melodic refrain repeats throughout the song, adding an element of gentleness to an otherwise upbeat tempo.

“JELLO” keeps in trend with the boy band’s penchant for irresistible hooks, with every verse showcasing each rapper’s unique flow. In “TEETH,” Ameer Vann raps about his childhood experiences with racism over a simple yet haunting vocalization reminiscent of 1990s R&B. This emotional interlude is followed by “SWAMP,” a tribute to BROCKHAMPTON’s current “outside” status with another sure to be radio-friendly hook. Next, in a truly standout track, “TOKYO” exudes jazzy, rock ’n’ roll vibes with its opening vocals over a captivating baseline.

Inserted in the album are two skits, “SCENE” and “SCENE 2,” which feature Robert Ontenient, the group’s webmaster, voicing over poetic pleadings in Spanish. In tune with Ontenient’s elusive introductions at the beginning of BROCKHAMPTON’s music videos, these skits add an extra element of mystery to the record.

The album slows down with “JESUS,” a short interlude with Abstract recalling a past relationship over a piano and smooth vocals in the outro by Bearface. “CHICK” contains verses by Matt Champion, Vann, and Dom McLennon followed by Abstract’s experimental vocals on the outro.

Abstract opens “JUNKY” with a memorable verse, rapping frankly about his sexual orientation and his experiences with homophobia. Here, Abstract proclaims his commitment to improving queer visibility in rap music with the following lyrics, “Why you always rap about bein’ gay?” / ‘Cause not enough ni**as rap and be gay.” In the same song, Merlyn Wood laments the difficulties he’s faced with his family since dropping out of architecture school to join the boy band.

Arguably the most powerful track on the album, “FIGHT” in its entirety is dedicated to addressing antiblack racism. With verses from Vann and McLennon layered over minimal guitar, listeners are directed to take in the lyrics above anything else. Vann demands attention to murders committed against black people with strikingly simple words, “And like my teachers would say / “Little black boys have a place in the world” / Like hanging from trees.” On the other hand, McLennon raps, “I see your culture’s dependent / On what you didn’t inherit,” calling out mainstream culture for appropriating elements of black culture as its own.

“SWEET” is a cohesively produced track featuring a notable verse from Joba, who plays with vocal effects while rapping and singing about his dreams of being in a boy band since the days of *NSYNC. “GAMBA,” on the other hand, is a smooth track with McLennon, Abstract, and Bearface. Generous in its use of vocal effects, the song is a nostalgic shoutout to mid-2000s Timbaland collaborations, a comparison made by Abstract himself. In “SUNNY,” the group transitions to slow raps over a soft, repetitive electric guitar loop with production that evokes ambient summer vibes, a perfect transition to the final song of the album.

“SUMMER” is a romantic ballad with soft rock and R&B influences featuring sweet vocals, minimal lyrics, and an emphasis on simple keyboard chords and slow electric guitar solos. Evocative of “WASTE” from the first album, “SUMMER” showcases BROCKHAMPTON’s musical diversity and talent while providing a thematic end to SATURATION 2, leaving listeners wanting more from the trilogy.

Look out for SATURATION 3, the final installment in the trilogy, when it comes out later this year. In the meantime, listen to the full SATURATION 2 on Spotify below.

Advertisements