The thing about Brockhampton is they’re supposed to be too much. What do you expect when you’re attempting to take in three albums by a collective of 14 members in one year, whose chief artistic reasoning is “because we can?” The freshest act, sorry, I mean “boy band,” of 2017 doesn’t think much about albums just yet; they’re just a fucking art factory, like Andy Warhol envisioned. They’re product machines with an unmistakable aesthetic, one-word titles in all caps, which adorn the title cards of their many colorful and boisterous videos. If you can tell just by sound whether a tune is from Saturation I, II, or III, you’re probably cheating. And if you’re trying to familiarize yourself with the seven vocalists in the group, the beats constantly shifting within the same track and uniform, stark song names won’t help you as much as spending an evening with the videos, whereupon you can watch 21-year-old co-founder Kevin Abstract recite star-making lines like “I’m the only pop star with no money” and “Why you always rap about being gay?/ Cuz not enough niggas rap and be gay” with the confidence and command of Tyler, the Creator circa 2011.
Odd Future is often, and correctly, cited as the model for these Texas wonders, though Brockhampton’s origins – via the KanyeToThe message board – are more openly prefab and ridiculous. Abstract is also more outward about his sexuality than Tyler, the Creator or Frank Ocean have ever been, maybe even more than out lesbian Syd as well. While Tyler and Frank have somewhat utilized their mystique in the service of the ambiguous open letters on Blonde and Flower Boy and Syd has never made her woman-to-woman lyrics much of a show, on Saturation III, Abstract slips in “I like taller guys” after “I like curly fries” in “JOHNNY”, and on the triumphant “STUPID”, he is resolute: “I’m a faggot, I say it/ I say that shit like I mean it.” More than any other rapper of 2017, Kevin Abstract will bring us into the future with this army of all-inclusive talent. (On Saturation II, his “I do the most for the culture nigga by just existing” is plenty true as a standalone but all the richer when it’s soon followed by “Told my mom I was gay, why the fuck she ain’t listen?”)
Of course, his boy bandmates Ameer Vann (kind of Brockhampton’s Vince Staples) and Merlyn Wood (their Busta Rhymes?) aren’t far behind in carving out both their niche in the group and something larger in hip-hop. There’s also Joba, the long-haired kinda-metal guy who screamed, “I’ll break your neck so you can watch your back” over and over on the first album’s “HEAT”. The group’s sonics have only grown denser and more confident with each Saturation volume from this summer to now, certainly making it no easier to pry all those exuberant contributions apart on record. The videos are part of the act, so use ‘em. They’re far more discrete than any distinction between these records, which seem to have been released as such because that’s when they came together and were finished. Saturation III is the shortest, hookiest, and best, though, for no better reason than they are cooking by now, pithily commenting on police brutality, drug addiction, and receiving head.
Living in the same house and democratically writing songs has led to the SNL Band-meets-House of Pain squall of the lead-off “BOOGIE”, a conscious attempt to make something more danceable, though the best in show may be “ALASKA”, with Vann trading a non sequitur like “I trade a white bitch for catfish and yellowbones” with Abstract’s laconic, Das Racist-style brag of being “A young Zuckerberg/ I wake up and make stuff” and also “I love my niggas like white people love rap.” The beat flips into something else per usual, and Matt Champion comes in with an image that could be describing Brockhampton altogether: bears sharing porridge with Goldilocks.
That’s the unity these guys call up, even though they sure say “bitch” a lot, and it’s a little hard to believe they couldn’t find one woman to recruit. Hey, would it be weird for these guys to add a girl to a boy band? To the contrary, it would be completely in their casually fearless spirit and specified hunger towards changing the rules of hip-hop. They’ve got a fourth new album, Team Effort, already coming down the pipe when 2018 hits. At the rate they’re improving their craft, it could well make us forget about Saturation III. And Saturation III is great.
Essential Tracks: “ALASKA”, “BOOGIE”, and “STUPID”