The wait for boy band Brockhampton’s fourth studio album, “iridescence,” is finally over. The fourteen-member group has again proven that they are a creative powerhouse with a fifteen-track album blending rap, R&B and pop. With an abundance of members comes a comradery which encourages members to push each other to their best. The result is their new album, which debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200 Albums. “iridescence” shows fans and newcomers alike who Brockhampton are with an elevated production value and deeper lyrics.
Brockhampton began as a group of self-trained rappers, designers and photographers sharing a common goal: to redefine what it means to be a boy band. Traditionally, the phrase “boy band” evokes images of pop groups like NSYNC or One Direction— not a group of outcasts creating genre-defying rap. But nonetheless Brockhampton burst onto the music scene when they released three albums, “Saturation 1″, “2″ and “3″ in the span of seven months in 2017.
After the controversy with former frontman Ameer Vann and his subsequent departure from the group, critics doubted Brockhampton’s ability to produce an album that could compare to the “Saturation“ trilogy. Brockhampton found themselves under media scrutiny when Vann was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. After a month of tense delegations, Brockhampton released a statement announcing, “Ameer is no longer in Brockhampton … we do not tolerate abuse of any kind.” And just like that, the face of the group was gone, leaving fans speculating what Brockhampton’s next move would be.
But despite these setbacks, Brockhampton have re-emerged with a more mature sound. Made in ten days at Abbey Road studios in London, “iridescence” is a vast departure from the “Saturation” trilogy, heavily influenced by the group’s time in Europe. The lyrics are intensely emotional, and I’ve found that listening to “iridescence“ is best when enjoyed alone. While the beats are well-crafted, it’s the lyrics that make this a truly remarkable album. So, sit down, turn your headphones up and listen to what each member has to say.
“iridescence“ opens with “NEW ORLEANS,” an ambitious track featuring each of the six rappers/singers in the fourteen-person group. My favorite verse on this track is delivered by Merlyn Wood. Originally born in Ghana, Wood raps about the whitewashing that comes with Christianity and his disappointment with growing distant from his roots. When he raps, “colonized Christian, now I’m losing my religion,” Wood says he feels out of touch with his home.
Member Dom McLennon further carries Wood’s themes through the rest of the album. McLennon’s performance is one of the strongest on the album. Vocal about his battle with depression, he provides a unique perspective on how fame has made his struggles even more difficult. In the track, “THUG LIFE,” he delivers a candid verse about his struggles, rapping, “Can’t help but meet the feeling with a familiar embrace, when I know that it’ll kill me if I give into my brain.” McLennon’s ability to convey feelings of isolation to the listener, along with his honesty when talking about his mental health struggles are one of the reasons the lyrics on “iridescence” are so touching.
Depression is a theme on the album, touched on by several other members. Russell Boring, better known as “Joba” is one of them. In “DISTRICT,” he sings, “Praise God! Hallelujah, I’m still depressed, at war with my conscience, paranoid.” It’s refreshing to hear an artist sing openly about his struggles with depression and anxiety in a time when mental health is still so heavily stigmatized. Joba’s transparency with his depression resonates with fans, reassuring us that these are struggles that people do not have to face alone. Connecting emotionally with an artist can be a cathartic experience and this is one of the reasons I have always enjoyed Brockhampton’s music.
The track “WEIGHT” further develops the album’s theme of feeling out of place. In this track, Kevin Abstract, who is openly gay, raps about his struggle with accepting his sexuality. He creates a vivid portrayal of a young man who feels completely alone and ostracized by his community. Abstract is a unique voice in rap music, where there are so few openly gay artists. As a queer person of color, Abstract provides much-needed representation in the music industry, and his ability to unapologetically be himself is powerful.
I think the best track on “iridescence” is “SAN MARCOS,” which manages to capture all the discontent that comes with feeling out of place in one lyric. The song, filled with mellow acoustic guitar, ends with The London Community Gospel Choir repeating the line, “I want more out of life than this.” This line reminds listeners of the disillusionment that comes with growing up, and the eternal search for something more out of life. While this might be a painful truth, the ethereal sounds of the choir give the melancholy line a hopeful tone. This track is the satisfying ending that every album should have.
Brockhampton has created a cohesive soundtrack to a coming-of-age movie that is just waiting to be made. “iridescence” is bursting with relatable lyrics, whether it’s that feeling of being out of place, or wondering if things will all be okay in the end. The group’s lyrical prowess has led to another stunning album despite the setbacks of the past year. So, if you’re looking for music with more lyrical depth, consider putting “iridescence” on. This fifty-minute collaboration of fourteen like-minded individuals will leave you wondering when Brockhampton will be back with their next project.