If, like most of the population, you’re new to BROCKHAMPTON’s domain and looking for the quintessential track in which to get your feet wet, ‘SATURATION II’ starts off with an ideal primer in ‘GUMMY’. A distorted, punchy, and impossibly catchy hook courtesy of mastermind Kevin Abstract? Check. An uninhibited and at times incomprehensible disruption from Merlyn Wood, complemented by the more composed and lyrically dexterous Ameer Vann and Dom McLennon? Second check. Matt Champion, style equal parts sleazy and endearing, and Joba, a stream of alien warbles, quirkily garnishing your meal? That’s a wrap, folks. BROCKHAMPTON has a basic formula (and more members), yet the newest album from the West Coast-based hip-hop collective and “boy band” is the farthest thing from basic. Not even three months removed from the release of the first ‘SATURATION’, they’re delivering on nomenclature as well as quality, crafting another whirlwind of a mission statement that matches the highs of its predecessor while building a firmer status quo.
For those familiar with and still enjoying ‘SATURATION’, not much has changed, allowing its sequel to operate as either a gift to a rapidly increasing fanbase or a fitting introduction for those only now hearing the amplifying buzz. Romil Hemnani once again handles the bulk of the production, and he draws from his varied palette to produce backdrops whose versatility refutes the thought of them going stale. This installment distances itself from the punk rock elements of the band’s past, and the arrangement of the talent rarely feels misguided because of this. ‘QUEER’ shifts from a grinding lesson in aggression to a sentimental serenade before morphing seamlessly into a blend of the two. Frustrations over prejudices are aired out over sitars and an electric buildup of alarms for the majority of ‘FIGHT’, but by the end of the track we’re catapulted onto an bouncing bridge of Die Antwoord-style vocals. ‘JUNKY’ relies on a sinister string loop to sustain an incredible opening verse from Kevin Abstract, which concludes on a graphic, triumphant affirmation of gay pride: “Where I come from n*ggas get called ‘f*ggot’ and killed / So I’ma get head from a n*gga right here / And they can come and cut my hand off and / And my legs off and / And I’ma still be a boss ’till my head go, yeah“. It lingers in the mind as a watershed because of how the instrumentation reacts to it, isolating a warped scream and a sampled refrain dripping with Dirty South nostalgia that feels momentous and momentum-building.
The four singles preceding ‘SATURATION II’ (‘GUMMY’, ‘SWAMP’, ‘JUNKY’, and ‘SWEET’) do an excellent job of capturing the collective’s spirit, sharp and poignant without compromising on personality and fun, while their surrounding excursions play more with form, captivating whether they achieve greatness or fall short of it. ‘TOKYO’, the project’s high point, puts secret weapon Joba front and center, who lets loose a string of cadences that would make Justin Timberlake proud; on his final note, the bassline explodes with an applause of jazz horns and a hook of pure delight. Interlude ‘TEETH’ finds Most Valuable Rapper Ameer left alone to snarl with resentment (“My momma tried to help me, but I hardly ever listened / So she sent me to them white schools, I learned that I was different“), the dreamy beat a study in less is more. Other attempts at scaled-down offerings suffer from ditching the chemistry that ignites BROCKHAMPTON at their best, with ‘JESUS’ lacking the emotional kick that ‘TEETH’ satisfies under the same time limit, and ‘SUMMER’ coming off as slightly hollow despite a genuine, melancholic performance from singer-producer bearface. The album appears to cement that ‘SATURATION’ albums will close with a three-song set of gloomier tracks, with the middle one (breezy, decaying ‘SUNNY’) emerging as the strongest. ‘GAMBA’ and ‘SUMMER’ aren’t misfires by any means, but neither provides a powerful reason for diverting the listener from that invigorating posse barreling through the earlier songs.
‘SATURATION II’ is a testament to the freshness of BROCKHAMPTON, earning our trust and a right to exist so soon while doing nothing to discourage the rollout for the already announced ‘SATURATION III’. On the wishlist: piling on even more creative risks (rappers trading bars; songs using the artists in more unexpected ways) and finding a way to maintain the band’s vitality from start to finish. Each member secures at least two or three singular victories that will plant themselves in daydreams, playlists, and year-end debates. However, the biggest win is in the team striking lightning twice, a group of individuals demonstrating in one summer that they’re destined to create together.
‘SATURATION II’ is out now via Question Everything, Inc. / Empire Distribution. The albums full track-listing is as follows…