Updated: Dec 26, 2018
BROCKHAMPTON’s fourth studio album is unlike anything they’ve released thus far — an unsurprising feat — considering the boy band’s tumultuous year. In May of 2018, the group parted ways with Ameer Vann, a lead vocalist, and the man pictured BROCKHAMPTON's first three projects. Following a slew of abuse allegations, band front-man Kevin Abstract reportedly asked the Houston rapper to leave the group. On iridescence, Vann’s departure is undoubtedly felt; there is a gaping hole that was once filled with gritty, poignant, and deeply personal verses (see “HEAT,” “TEETH,” or “ALASKA”). In his absence, BROCKHAMPTON is forced to compensate, filling the empty spaces with verses or bridges from less prominent members. While less painful than the footage of the group performing at the Boston Calling Festival, fresh off Ameer’s departure, the duration of the album he would have populated is sometimes listless and unintentional. In a situation like this, growing pains are to be expected. Nonetheless, the test of BROCKHAMPTON’s merit comes in the form of challenging growth in unforeseen directions.
For an album released amidst internal chaos, Iridescence is a step in the right direction, skillfully retaining the magic of the SATURATION Trilogy, while making bounds in sonic direction. In house producers Romil Hemnani, and the Q3 duo (comprised of Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merley), push the boundaries in new fashion. BROCKHAMPTON has never been known for playing by the rules, or staying inside the box, but the abrasive sounds brought to the table on iridescence are unlike anything they’ve done yet. Take “DISTRICT,” the album’s jarring centerpiece. It’s the perfect display of organic chemistry and hunger that caught the ears of the supergroup’s original fans. Dom McLennon, the group’s premiere MC, occupies a foreboding pocket — his cadence is relaxed — yet his raps have a viciously aggressive tone to them. Dom sounds like he’s been backed into a corner and surrounded by wolves, with no viable escape plan, somehow remaining unfazed by his predicament. JOBA, the boyband’s jack of all trades, has his best lyrical contributions on this cut as well. “Praise God, Hallelujah, I’m still depressed/ at war with my conscious, paranoid, can’t find that (expletive)" is a vivid depiction of internal struggle, in the form of a comically disparaging commentary about faith.
Much of the album is a cry for space, and for time. It sounds like many members are suffocated, looking for an outlet to express their most consuming anxieties. Its tender moments — displaying band members' raw vulnerabilities — are highlights. “TONYA,” arguably the strongest song on the album, encapsulates feelings of insufficiency, and anecdotal lines about how the group got to a point of fame and fortune. It is unarguably one the groups most mature, self aware tracks, and acts as a coming of age moment on this tracklist. Kevin Abstract brings one of his most impactful verses to the table, layered with imagery and descriptors of the group’s recent controversy. His line, “My ghost still haunt ya/ my life is I, Tonya,” is the first reference to Ameer Vann on the record, a simple parallel of the unwinding controversy. Tonya Harding’s career, forever marred by the assault of Nancy Kerrigan, is a wonderfully developed allegory of the band’s predicament. No matter how much quality music is pumped out of the BROCKHAMPTON camp, the Vann situation will forever linger, a haunting ghost of their pasts. The mark left by the former member’s actions is indelible, but “TONYA” is beautiful reconciliation, and a well executed concept song.
Other standout moments include Matt Champion’s verse on “TAPE,” an introspective musing of his new found fame. No less than a year ago, he was skateboarding around Los Angeles, and now his performances are live streamed for thousands of fans around the world. The young rapper is undoubtedly having trouble dealing with the immeasurable amounts of popularity. “FABRIC” is another exemplary moment of progression in the group’s trajectory — a welcome departure from the syrupy Bearface solo tracks that concluded the albums in the SATURATION Trilogy. On the final verse, Kevin Abstract sounds liberated, like he has finally found the voice he has spent albums in search of.
The group dives deep throughout the course of the project, looking for resolution and peace in their music. The album’s closer provides undeniable proof of growth, and of positive progression in the aftermath of a morale rattling scandal. While it would have been easy to simply regress into the patterns and habits of the SATURATION trilogy, the boyband moves further in to the future, refusing to settle for sonic stagnancy.
Best Songs: “TONYA,” “SAN MARCOS,” “TAPE,” “THUG LIFE”
Worst Songs: “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM,” “J’OUVERT”
7 out of 10 Finches