BROCKHAMPTON grows without growing pains on ‘GINGER’
The all-American boy band delivers their distinct brand of youthful, emotional hip-hop while continuing to update and refine their sound.
Sep. 10, 2019
BROCKHAMPTON is one of the biggest stories in hip-hop right now. Following their debut album “ALL-AMERICAN TRASH” in 2016, the self-styled boy band has released six consistently high-quality albums in half as many years. Composed of over a dozen members that handle both music and marketing, the collective identity of the group is unprecedented in the modern hip-hop sphere.
In 2018, the group faced turmoil when the decision was made to expel prominent vocalist Ameer Vann on accounts of sexual misconduct. Shortly after, they released “iridescence," an excellent album, but one that was understandably frantic and disorganized. On “GINGER," BROCKHAMPTON rediscovers the focus seen on their earlier albums and displays greater maturity on both personal and musical fronts.
“NO HALO” is the album’s opening track, and it is a fitting introduction for “GINGER." The track’s themes of religion, mental health and a sense of loss define the album’s lyrical content. The beat on “NO HALO” is one of the best on the album and uses soft guitars and pianos amid minimalist drums to cement the song’s angst-filled aesthetic.
The following track, “SUGAR," doubles down on the group’s running boy band motif. The track is as sweet and blissful as the title suggests. “SUGAR” is catchy and certainly well-produced, but it also seems out of place on this album. The glossy and yearning performances, which culminate with bearface repeatedly crooning “Do you love me, love me, love me?” at the song’s close, stand out against the otherwise moody tone that dominates the album.
The characteristic high-energy posse cuts that have become staples of the BROCKHAMPTON sound also appear on “GINGER." In keeping with the rest of the album, these tracks feature stripped back instrumentals, altered vocals and deliberate flows. The lead single “I BEEN BORN AGAIN” is the album’s best example of this. The core of the production is a slow bassline that is built on as each of the group’s vocalist deliver successive verses.
The minimalist production keeps the band’s lyrics front and center. On “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT," the group’s vocalists boast about their creative prowess over a slow and exacting beat. Dom McLennon’s opening verse on this song is some of the best rapping on the album (“My attention to detail is in scale with classic impressionists/ So the lesson is that prerequisites are irrelevant to my standards” is a standout lyric from his verse) and Kevin Abstract’s hook is a welcome melodic element that contrasts the exacting flows the group members use.
“DEARLY DEPARTED” and the eponymous “GINGER” are two of the most ambitious tracks on the album and fittingly form its emotional core. “DEARLY DEPARTED” is the most focused artistic response the group has had to their decision to remove Ameer Vann. The song's lyrics, especially the verses from Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon, are some of the most impassioned and most honest in BROCKHAMPTON’s discography.
The song “GINGER” is an R&B anthem that plays like the sequel to the emotional exorcism of “DEARLY DEPARTED." Kevin Abstract’s hook is built around the simple, reaffirming mantra of “Know you got your own ****, and all of it together / And you know you got your own space right here forever, baby / You know you got your own, know you got your own” which fittingly opens the track. The rest of the song follows in suit and almost plays like a Kanye-style “Runaway” moment.
For a group that has always cared about emotional integrity, it’s no surprise that “GINGER” is as honest as it is raw. BROCKHAMPTON’s refined focus and increased vigor pay dividends across the album, forming one of their most cohesive albums to date. Edited by Joe Cross | firstname.lastname@example.org