Since the strange yet meteoric rise of the breakout hip-hop collective BROCKHAMPTON in 2015, the 13 to 17- member group has done little but subvert expectations. Releasing a trilogy of experimental hip-hop albums back to back in 2017, the group quickly garnered attention as the face of new-age rap and pop. BROCKHAMPTON’s reckless, eclectic style has continued to draw attention in 2018; the group, who to that point had been seen as an underground hip-hop favorite, signed to RCA Records in March of 2018.
The RCA signing seen as a potential betrayal of their internet-based origins, tensions were high over the release of the group’s first studio album, “iridescence.” Many in the BROCKHAMPTON community feared that the band’s signing to a major record label would sanitize and cleanse their historically wild and experimental style. The added production on “iridescence,” however, only bolsters and deepens the band’s idiosyncratic, noisy style and serves to improve an album that is sure to quickly become a BROCKHAMPTON classic.
The album opens with “NEW ORLEANS,” an aggressive, rowdy track with heavily-layered instrumentals, a track which sets the tone for the rest of “iridescence.” Similarly-toned tracks “BERLIN,” “WHERE THE CASH AT,” “J’OUVERT,” “HONEY” and “VIVID” fill out the album’s 45-minute, 15-track runtime with speaker-breaking bass and fast flows. This dynamic starkly contrasts the group’s previous “SATURATION” trilogy, where songs of “NEW ORLEANS” style were few and far between. These tracks also represent a shift in BROCKHAMPTON’s focus, from lyrical pop ballads to radio-unfriendly experimental trips.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “iridescence” works to intermingle heavy, loud tracks with slower, more emotional cuts. Over a soft guitar-led instrumental, “SAN MARCOS” discusses the feelings of emptiness that the band experienced even after becoming wildly successful.
“TAPE” suggests the fatigue associated with releasing three albums in a six-month time span. “WEIGHT,” meanwhile, explores the coming out story of Kevin Abstract, one of the group’s most prominent members, and “TONYA” picks through members’ home life through the lens of fame. While these tracks provide the majority of the album’s emotional weight, they are given significantly less focus than they were on the band’s 2017 records.
The closing track, “FABRIC,” blends elements of “iridescence’s” heavy and soft tracks, discussing the media’s representation of them as they ascended quickly to stardom. Stringing together a strong message with an even stronger baseline, it leaves audiences wanting more blending of BROCKHAMPTON’s two styles than the single track that the album provides.
Put together, “iridescence” is a natural but unpredictable evolution for BROCKHAMPTON. It’s heavy, heated tracks perfectly blend with the slower emotional tracks and the sound of the album on the whole is cohesive, compelling and distinctly re-listenable.
The newfound experimental sounds bring new life to a saturated market of trap rap and loud, autotuned hip-hop voices.
The album is without a doubt one of the band’s best, and serves as an exciting launch point for the future of the group.