Hip Hop’s boyband BROCKHAMPTON has released their fourth studio album titled Iridescence, on September 21 of 2018, with the album being the first of their releases to deviate from the Saturation branding, and the first of their covers to refrain from using Ameer Van on the cover art.
Due to sexual misconduct allegations made against Van over the past year, the group decided to part ways with their former band-mate. In the aftermath of this rift, the group delayed or canceled plans for three separate albums that they no longer felt comfortable working on due to subject matter or Van’s already heavy involvement. Their return came in the form of Iridescence, which has been received by a widely positive public and critical response.
Listening to this album helps establish BROCKHAMPTON as the Predator of the music industry. If you look hard enough, nearly every creative decision draws directly from a clear initial source, but in a way that doesn't forget to evolve with modern trends and themes.
At first listen, Iridescence is heavily reminiscent of Frank Ocean's Blonde and Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak/My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. We see Ocean with the gentle crooning and airy high pitched vocals, and West with the heavy warped vocals and the blatant side by side sonic dichotomy. Sudden switch-ups from gentle, uplifting synths to heavy, almost lip-curlingly dirty sounding drums and bass, make for a beat that's hard to ignore.
The transitions themselves are phenomenally well done in Iridescence. One song flows into the other very smoothly, to a degree where you don't notice them at all at points. This is especially exemplified from ‘New Orleans’ to ‘Thug Life’.
Production overall is never lacking. The album boasts incredible range, from EDM to soft piano to simple guitar incorporation, with each having obviously been given due care. Production credits are given to the usual duo Q3 (Jabari & Kiko), with Romil and Joba also staking hefty production claims, though they usually tend to be vocalists.
At fifteen tracks long, play time is relatively average for a hip hop album. That time includes skits/monologues, which for a long time were seen as a massive weakness to have in an album (blame the ringtone era).
Again, the Predator continues to evolve. Monologues appear on a couple tracks, like ‘Loophole’ and ‘Weight’, and are done in a way that acts outside the narrative of the song itself, but still within the established theme. It's done quite well, and is reminiscent of Jay Z’s 4:44 and Brother Ali’s All the Beauty in This Whole Life, though admittedly it's likely that the members drew inspiration from the bigger artist, Jay Z. The skits can act as a reprieve from the music at times, like clearing your palate before the next meal.
Another highlight of the album is the pitched up vocals that can be heard in songs like ‘Berlin’ and ‘J’Ouvert’, which are attributed to member Bearface. They pitch to the point where he reaches the upper range of a female vocalist, while not sounding forced or heavy. The vocals in the album as a whole are done well, with vocal collaborations with Kirsty Hopkins (Honey), Jayden Smith (New Orleans), London Community Gospel Choir Children (Thug Life and San Marcos), SERPENTWITHFEET (Tonya) and Beyoncé (sample on Honey). There is no lack of talent on this project.
There are still things to nitpick though. Most immediate and obvious is the lack of Van’s gritty, dark sounding vocals that fans have grown accustomed to. In and of itself, this is not an issue. The album does not feel lacking; having rough vocalists like Dom and Wood helps preserve most of the edge that Van was known for. For the fans who were drawn to the group for that aesthetic, there may be room for improvement.
Secondly, the themes explored are extremely prominent right now. Depression, suicidal thoughts, doubt, homosexuality, money, among other topics are all covered in nearly every mainstream song under the public eye currently. They're basic and abiding topics, yes, but the mark of being truly different is talking about what nobody else is. There is no lost credit for exploring these themes of course, but they do help cement the group as “Hip Hop’s boyband”, in a way.
All in all, a very solid album that deserves to be thoroughly listened to.
Standout tracks: Berlin, J’ouvert, Honey, San Marcos, Weight