Controversy shrouded BROCKHAMPTON’s impending album release this past summer when Ameer Vann was accused of sexual assault and asked to leave the self-branded boy band. But months of reworking the then already completed iridescence to remove Vann’s verses and the cancellation of the remainder of their summer tour dates following Boston Calling did not cause the hip-hop up and comers to lose any momentum, and the group’s latest work displays a wisdom beyond the band’s young age.
Iridescence plays on a large spectrum of sound, surging through techno beats dripping with deep bass drops on songs “NEW ORLEANS” and “HONEY” and gracefully floating on piano-driven winds of touching vulnerability on “TONYA.” The band’s fifth album in just two years displays an almost unbelievable depth of both musical skill and lyrical sophistication.
A swagger slinging party anthem kicks off the album with an explosive bass drop. Kevin Abstract issues a warning to BROCKHAMPTON’s doubters, screaming “Tell the world I ain’t scared of nothing.” Bearface’s lyric “Them gold chains turn your neck green, bye” cuts through flexing facades between breathless pauses that pay tribute to the sprinting start of Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead”—the band got its start on a Kanye West fan forum.
The chorus from the fiery first track returns on “THUG LIFE,” a piano-backed reprise that draws from early 2000s R&B with twinkling flourishes and Bearface’s falsetto. BROCKHAMPTON immediately dives back into montages of shaking bass and an eclectic range of alternative sounds on “BERLIN”—a revving car engine weaves throughout the bumper-to-bumper bass.
BROCKHAMPTON continues playing tug rope with tempos throughout the first half of the 15 track album, slowing things down every other song. Kevin Abstract flirts with a lazy loved-up rhythm on “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM,” a romantic tune most likely aimed at Abstract’s longtime boyfriend. Merlyn Wood’s choppy lyrical delivery ignites the racing synthetic beat of “WHERE THE CASH AT” with lines that put life in perspective for the boy band who shot to the top of the charts with SATURATION II last year. Wood recalls his humble beginnings with the line “I used to be broke / I don’t got amnesia.”
The band brought violinists into the iconic Abbey Road studio where the album was recorded to pull heartstrings on “WEIGHT,” the emotional height of the album. Abstract, Joba, and Dom McLennon come together to craft the heart-bearing verses about the destruction of stardom. The slow violin onset provides the perfect space for Abstract to delve into the shame he felt when confronting his homosexuality, revealing “And everytime she took her bra off my d—k would get soft / I thought I had a problem, kept my head inside a pillow screaming.” A fast-paced montage thrusts the song into Joba’s quick verse before breaking down with Joba’s pressure-filled outro that alludes to the consumption that helps the band cope.
The violins return on the intro of “DISTRICT” but quickly dissolve to usher in tumultuous bass-driven tempo. Joba hoses down the beat by breaking up lines with “Woo! Simmer down, simmer down, simmer down, simmer down.” Even against the house party beat, the members remain reflective—Matt Champion’s verse cuts through the false sense of fulfillment that comes with money: “Big ass house and big ass car don’t add up when you die alone.”
“LOOPHOLE” breaks up the highs and lows of the first half of iridescence with the recording of an interview between DJ Whoo Kid, who has worked with the likes of 50 Cent, Eminem, and Waka Flocka Flame, and Cam’ron. Violins provide the musical element to the mashup as the two discuss the allure of fame and the song gets its title from Cam’ron’s remark about falling just as quickly as the rapper rose to fame: “I’m not being able to get four or five cars or jewelry or things I wanted to get / So I’m like let me figure what’s the loophole in this shit.”
The following four tracks, “TAPE,” “J’OUVERT,” “HONEY,” and “VIVID” are marked by quick beats and ferocious verses. Joba explodes on “J’OUVERT” before a quick drum beat introduces Lavaman’s verse and mixes in a little Spanish flare. “HONEY” brings back the poppy R&B feel of SATURATION II with ad-libs from Beyoncé and references to 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
“SAN MARCOS” and “TONYA” are the final crash on the album, slowing the tempo down one last time before “FABRIC.” Iridescence is marked by a maturity and sensitivity that are often lacking in the hip-hop genre. Rejecting a false sense of wealth and getting real about sexuality and mental health allows BROCKHAMPTON to connect with its adolescent audience in ways that delve far deeper than the shallow party jams of its contemporaries.
Featured Image by RCA Records