Lifestyle editor Amy Butterworth reviews the latest BROCKHAMPTON album.
There’s something deliciously oxymoronic about the existence of the hip-hop meets boy-band group BROCKHAMPTON, the American rap collective who united via a Kanye Forum (oh, what humble beginnings). And the contradictions don’t stop there, as the release of their 5th LP GINGER poses the theme of loss and loneliness against that of brotherhood and unity.
The elephant in the room is the group’s decision to oust member Ameer Vann over sexual misconduct allegations (who has now released a regretful-but-not-remorseful, petty, not-worth-listening-EP). This loss proved a huge toll on the group; fans anticipated it to be the end of BROCKHAMPTON, but with their second release since the scandal, the group prove untarnished and more aurally cohesive than ever. While the SATURATION trilogy brought variety and iridescence brought chaos, GINGER brings cohesion, ironically at the most turbulent points of their careers. If iridescence was their elegy to Ameer Vann, then this is the boys asking themselves: “where do we go from here?”. They as a group are far from fractured, they’re homogeneous and united, navigating their futures of personal growth and as musicians.
it’s the overbearing allusions to loss, absence and waiting, both physical and abstract
The album’s cohesion can be attributed to many things: perhaps it’s the melancholy tone that underpins each and every song on the album, possibly it’s the overbearing allusions to loss, absence and waiting, both physical and abstract. There’s obviously the tangible (but necessary) loss of Ameer, but this is interrogated next to anxieties of religion (losing faith or looking for God) looking for someone, anyone: “waiting for you to call me”.
It’s solipsistic, introspective, and the album’s opening song being so much more subdued than their other introductions encapsulates this. ‘NO HALO’ takes us through narratives of failed romance, depression, being influenced by society, searching for meaning. ‘IF YOU PRAY RIGHT’ examines religion, as either a plea or sardonic commentary towards spirituality intertwined with the reality of poverty: “is there anything I can do that’ll save us”. There’s a perceptible, airy R&B feel that points to artists like Frank Ocean; some may pin this as appealing to the mainstream, I regard it as the band’s realised maturity.
BROCKHAMPTON, thanks to the vast variety of the group, manage to authentically narrate the stories of our generation throughout GINGER – of poverty, mental illnesses, sexuality and those that impact all of us, like loss and heartache. The transition to the most melodically-driven song on the album, ‘SUGAR’, brings us back to the theme of waiting, “waiting for you to call me”, with ballad-like quality augmented by Bearface’s smooth-like-butter-vocals. Even playful songs like ‘BOY BYE’, which Kevin Abstract compares to the liveliness of Gucci Gang covers introspective, spiritual notions of God and morality: “God can’t judge me but only God can see” and “trauma got me f****d up”, ideas recapitulated in ‘ST PERCY’ alongside a booming sonic bassline.
These artists are growing as men; incapable of suppressing their emotions as toxic masculinity
The album reaches an emotional peak at ‘DEARLY DEPARTED’, directly addressing the Ameer scandal headfirst, but what sets it apart is that Kevin, Matt and Dom manage to meander around different topics of heavier, more philosophical themes of truth and God. Ameer’s absence acts almost micro-cosmically to other emotionally complex absences that the group addresses. The pleading “why” vocals stand out, alongside the lines: “how many sides to a story can there be when you saw it with your own eyes?”
These artists are growing as men; incapable of suppressing their emotions as toxic masculinity is interrogated in ‘BIG BOY’, and ‘LOVE ME FOR LIFE’ leaves listener and band members with a similar notion of “how do we grow? How should I know?”. Regardless of how they grow, it’s clear that the boys will be growing together, the album epitomising a brotherhood that isn’t afraid of being ephemeral.