BROCKHAMPTON, a self-described “boy band” from San Marcos, Texas, has confronted both fame and controversy in their sudden rise to the top. Before founding the band in 2015, the 13 current members (none older than 26) met on an online forum dedicated to Kanye West. In 2016, they released their first mixtape, ALL-AMERICAN TRASH. Since then, the group has released a trilogy of albums dubbed SATURATION, all three installments receiving critical acclaim. Critical praise and a cultish internet following has catapulted BROCKHAMPTON into the upper echelons of contemporary rap. However, the group’s successes have been coupled by crisis. In light of the departure of member Ameer Vann due to sexual abuse allegations against him, the group has taken an entirely new direction. On Sept. 21, they released their new album iridescence, the first in a trilogy entitled The Best Years of Our Lives. The new album has a wide range of tones and little thematic coherence but uses this fact to its advantage and delivers an experience that sees the group redefine their personal narratives and their music.
Perhaps the most surprising and captivating aspect of the album is its refusal to adhere to fan expectations. This album is markedly different than anything BROCKHAMPTON has released to date. Recorded over the course of ten days in Abbey Road Studio, iridescence grapples with the radical changes that have impacted the group over the past year. Most notably, Vann’s termination from BROCKHAMPTON forced the group to scrap the unreleased album PUPPY, which featured Vann and was slated to be released earlier this year.
Through iridescence, the group acknowledges the stresses of fame and the abuse committed by their former member. The fifth track “WEIGHT” addresses the challenges the band has faced, comparing them to their individual struggles with their personal identities and mental health. The track serves as a reaffirmation of the band’s commitment to improving themselves as a group and making music that pushes the edge in modern rap. Rather than hide their problems from listeners, BROCKHAMPTON lays them all bare, exposing themselves, and in doing so, engrossing the listener. Vann’s absence, rather than detracting from the sound of the album, allows other members to shine. Particularly, Joba and Bearface come into their own on iridescence, with impressive verses on several tracks of the album.
In an effort to differentiate their sound from past endeavors, iridescence bounces between high-energy tracks with abrasive verses and more laid back songs. “TONYA,” a song with chill, acoustic beats and emotional verses is juxtaposed with tracks like “NEW ORLEANS,” characterized by loud beats and raw, aggressive verses. BROCKHAMPTON proves that they aren’t scared to experiment with their style, using samples of Beyoncé on “HONEY,” incorporating West Indian and soca influences on “J’OUVERT,” and including a chorus featuring Jaden Smith on “NEW ORLEANS.”
In their bid to redefine themselves, BROCKHAMPTON has created a scattered yet brilliant album. They successfully demonstrate that they do not need to stick to a tired formula to create quality music and have paved the way for the next two installments in their The Best Years of Our Lives trilogy. BROCKHAMPTON’s iridescence comes at the close of a year of controversy and sees the group striving to do what is right by others and themselves. They prove over the course of 15 diverse tracks that they haven’t been weakened by their recent controversies; they’re stronger than ever, and ready to take their place at the top of the rap game.