Brockhampton’s unprecedented rise to notoriety is one of this year’s biggest stories in hip-hop. It’s seemingly impossible to keep their name out of our mouths with the rapid succession of high-quality material that they’ve been putting out in their Saturation series; the third and final of which came in December. The new-age boy band out of Texas have been lauded for their fresh and unpredictable approach to hip-hop production, influenced by experimental artists such as N.E.R.D and Kanye West. Now that we are somewhat acclimatised to Brockhampton it would be natural to expect less excitement surrounding their unique sound, however, Saturation III still demonstrates growth while maintaining the same musical identity that has made the Saturation series a defining part of music in 2017.
Perhaps the album’s first single ‘Boogie’ best showcases the band’s rebellious energy. A rousing opener that sees each member trade lyrics between rasping horns and sirens, it’s a song that expresses the tenacity of a band that truly is “taking over.” ‘Zipper’ keeps pace as a cut where the group document their life on the road to success. Comedic and charismatic, Merlyn Woods’ verse about “pennies and ramen noodles” rides the swinging synth beat perfectly. But don’t be fooled that this album is full of feel-good anthems, at the opposite end of the project ‘Stains’ looks at Brockhampton’s pre-fame struggle with welcome sincerity. The considered instrumental allows for Ameer Vann, Matt Champion and Dom McLennon to appropriately soak in how their life has changed so rapidly before you’re blindsided by a funky house beat that carries the song out; another example that the group always keep you guessing.
I believe that a key part of Brockhampton’s success is their ability to accurately capture the image of the misfit millennial, not as people who are whining about their wealth of opportunities, but as people who are part of a world that’s moving faster than most are able to keep up with. ‘Johnny’ demonstrates this as a confessional of the group’s stresses and vices boiled down to their simple desire for freedom and comradery. Joba’s lyrics about how life has him “hog tied” is the track’s standout verse, of which there are certainly no weak ones. Brockhampton’s addictive confidence is born out of their willingness to explore their vulnerability, which they do on this project better than any other.
Considering the sheer amount of music that they’ve brought to us this year, it’s natural to see a few tracks that come across as lazy and poorly written. While the production remains punchy and open on ‘Hottie’ it’s hard to argue that anyone’s verse truly capitalises on this and the album’s close ‘Team’ unfortunately misses the target by a fair distance. A drawn out solo by Bearface is followed by lyrics about the state of life post-2017’s socio-political unrest and it’s the one and only time that this album feels at all indulgent; far from the defiant closure that I was looking for from the band who had such a monumental year.
The success of Saturation III proves that Brockhampton’s potential is not to be doubted. The band’s honesty and integrity creates work with substance that never lacks and in the current state of hip-hop, they prove that you absolutely don’t need to sacrifice quality to make fun, characterful music. The beauty of it all though is they still seem like normal guys, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was their secret ingredient.
Saturation III is out now.