BROCKHAMPTON are truly living in a teenage fantasy. All 18(ish) members met on an online internet forum, and have since moved in together in a Californian suburb where they devote their time to producing music. Their leader, the idiosyncratic Kevin Abstract, seems to have one goal: to subvert listeners’ expectations of the hip-hop genre. With SATURATION I, released only 4 months ago, they did exactly that – and with immense success. Then with the announcement of SATURATION II, fans and critics alike had to hesitate – could this second album live up to the first?
Yet again, Brockhampton deliver. SATURATION II is another grand display of musicality and lyricism. The rappers (all five of them) each have very personal and distinct styles and the beats and instrumentals are all crisp and immaculately produced, yet they keep the instruments, samples and drums quite varied in each song.
Lyrically too, they are astoundingly diverse. Some verses explore the loneliness of growing older, growing up gay and closeted, or falling in love – all topics which are very rarely discussed on hip-hop records. Yet other songs are Wu-Tang-style posse-cuts, where each member shows off their sharp tongue with quick quips and zany one-liners. Although tracks like these do get tiresome, each member’s unique flavour keeps you listening.
Throughout the runtime, it even feels like the whole style of the album shifts. Most songs have a bouncy, heavy beat feel, reminiscent of 90s classics, but there are a stand-out few which sound more experimental. Notable examples include ‘TEETH’, which rides off an uneasy acapella vocal, ‘JUNKY’, which includes this plucky vibrato violin which sounds like it’s from a nightmare and ‘SUNNY’ which has a smooth, dream-pop feel. I just wish there were a few more curveballs like these.
Ultimately, the most interesting thing about the SATURATION trilogy (yes, a third has been announced) so far is the insight we get into the group. Most members are barely into their 20s, so it seems like they are all just experimenting with their musical talents. They just want to bring people along for the ride of musical exploration – so far, it’s been thrilling.
IMAGE: Ashlan Grey, Wikimedia CC