Brockampton’s music is timeline rap. Just like Twitter, their output is a whirlwind of ideas, references, jokes, stories, confessions and aspirational updates—all flinging forward at an unstoppable pace and in a manner that’s as addictive as the virtual feeds we’re glued to every day.
For the uninitiated, the 15-member boyband met through a Kanye West fan forum in 2015, schemed their mission via iMessenger, and eventually left their respective hometowns throughout the country to move into a house together in L.A.—a tactic they said was directly inspired by the Facebook biopic, The Social Network. Since then they’ve unleashed a series of albums within a three month period, releasing SATURATION earlier this summer with SATURATION II following shortly after, all while scoring a TV on VICELAND TV show in the process.
Impressively, the group have announced that SATURATION III will be dropping before the year’s end. In light of this—ahem—over-saturation of music, and especially since Brockhampton mix genres in the same way professional chefs make use of the kitchen, it’s worth getting to know their most crucial tracks before the new record releases. The 10 tracks below should act as both a primer for newcomers who’d like to dip their toes and a more comprehensive sampling for casual fans who’d like to move past their hits. Let's get it!
As both the lead single and first track off II, “GUMMY” was born to be an introduction. Its rubbery instrumental bounces at a pace that each member flows seamlessly over, it’s got one of their signature, pitch-shifted hooks—a technique Brockhampton use frequently to add even more voices to their ensemble—and the refrain, “cash don’t last, my friends will ride with me,” is their golden mantra for camaraderie over currency. It’s the jam.
In addition to being their danciest track, “GOLD” is Brockhampton’s flex anthem. In between milking the sticky-ass hook, “keep a gold chain on my neck/fly as a jet/boy you better treat me with respect,” it’s just verse after verse of them showing off their slickest flows and most “ooo”-worthy one-liners. Matt Champion’s “rock the boat like a one-eyed pirate,” and Dom McLennon’s, “I feel like Ratatouille when I’m whipping that cheddar” are highlights.
Unlike the sonically affable “GUMMY,” the intro for SATURATION is the most menacing song in their catalog. The boys rap about guns, drugs, revenge, and hedonism over an outrageously chunky instrumental that ultimately boils over into an outro of screeching distortion. It’s also got Joba’s Show Me The Body-style shriek of the line, “Fuck you / I’ll break your neck so you can watch your back,” which is the most cold-blooded thing you’ll ever hear a boyband say.
Without even getting into their outstanding deliveries, “JUNKY” is arguably the best Brockhampton track based solely on its lyrical address toward two of the most contentious topics in hip-hop: homosexuality and rape culture. Abstract fearlessly flaunts his queerness, dropping radical bars like, “‘why you always rap about bein’ gay?’ / cause not enough niggas rap and be gay,” and, “is it homophobic to only hook up with straight niggas?” with impeccable defiance. Later in the song, Champion unleashes a violent diatribe against men who are “mad ‘cause she ain’t fuck / mad cause she ain’t suck.” “Respect my mother, ‘spect my sister, ‘spect these women, boy,” he demands. Compared to the last notable hip-hop collective out of L.A. (the “faggot”-spewing, callously sexist work of early Odd Future), Brockhampton are already leagues ahead in regards to social consciousness.
Although BROCKHAMPTON first flirted with trap beats on “BEN CARSON” and “FLIP MO” from their largely overlooked 2016 debut, ALL-AMERICAN TRASH, those two bare-bones, combative bass-boomers were hindered by premature endings and scant personality in comparison to their SATURATION counterpart, “BUMP.” As the name implies, the beat is absolutely clattering, but it’s juxtaposed by Abstract’s sing-song hook that injects a sense of youthful sweetness into the otherwise hostile track—making it distinctly theirs.
“FIGHT” begins with Ameer Vann explaining, in powerful terms, how he came to understand racism as a child of color (“All them boys they killed, they looked just like me / Not like Brandon or Chandler, but Malik and Kareem”) over a spacy weave of sitars. The instrumental becomes more intense when McLennon enters, bursting into a jump-along club beat that’s accented with Abstract’s enchanting, autotuned repetition of the phrase, “bum, bum beat ‘em.” Shit gets fascinatingly weird.
Whereas Kanye dwelled in despair on 808s & Heartbreak, “TRIP,” Brockhampton’s clear ode to that record’s iconic style, instead acts as a sendoff to their struggles. Drenched in autotune and accompanied by melancholy keyboard plucks, Vann raps about feeling out of place with his childhood white friends, and McLennon solemnly narrates his conflicts with mental health (“Shit was never sunny, wrists were sort of bloody”). However it's not all sad: Abstract's plainspoken hook "today imma be whoever I wanna be" acts as reassurance to their woes.
Aside from the aforementioned trap cuts, the majority of ALL-AMERICAN TRASH is made up of moody R&B songs. You might have your own fave, but I reckon “POISON” is the best of them all, retrofitting Vann’s monotone delivery with haunting organs, a steamy bass tone, and a sinewy guitar solo that recalls the psychedelic soul of Isaac Hayes. Vann’s vocals feel a bit awkward, but if anything, it’s a noble experiment and a prime example of the group’s “try anything” mentality.
Although it’s one of their least focused tracks both thematically and compositionally, “QUEER” does a great job at capturing Brockhampton’s unbridled group energy. It starts off with Champion and Merlyn Wood spitting bars over a clangy beat straight out of the 80s, and then unexpectedly swerves into this candied, pitch-shifted R&B hook that’s strung together by a ringing, West Coast synth; perhaps a metaphor for their literal move to the West Coast, which is referenced repeatedly throughout the song.
“SWEET” is the biggest challenger to “GUMMY” for the most fun Brockhampton cut. Again, the groove of this track is extraordinarily conducive to each member’s flow, providing plenty of room for the fast-spitting McLennon, and ample space for Champion’s hilarious ad-libs. It’s also got one of Wood’s most comical lines (“Don’t Call Me Stupid/That ain’t the way my name pronounced”) and a show-stopping verse from Joba—who usually sings—that solidifies the Brockhampton arsenal as a viable threat to boybands and bar-busters alike.
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