Brockhampton hits mark with Ginger


Caroline Zeeman, Staff Writer

If you are a rap fan and haven’t heard the news yet, there is a new BROCKHAMPTON album out. The Wu-Tang and Odd-Future-esque rap collective formed almost ten years ago, and has been drastically changing the dynamics of hip hop ever since. From the beginnings of their cult following spurred by their impressive release of the SATURATION trilogy, a series of three full albums titled “SATURATION” released in one year, the group has been shifting the conversation in hip hop.

The group’s lyricism, sound, size, and overall concept has been making waves throughout the music industry. With 6 artists, multiple producers, creative directors, cinematographers, photographers, graphic designers, directors, managers, and special guests, BROCKHAMPTON has been running as an independent group since it’s start.

Recently, however, BROCKHAMPTON signed with RCA records for an “Odd-Future style deal” worth more than $15 million for six albums over three years. Their debut RCA record recorded at the world famous Abbey Road studios, iridescence, was both critically acclaimed for its lyricism and darker tone, and criticized by fans for straying too far away from the previous SATURATION era of the group.

While iridescence was shown great support from their cult following, the group has acknowledged the disappointment with the new sound vocalized from some fans. Kevin Abstract, leader of BROCKHAMPTON, followed up with a promise to fans of an incredible second album with RCA, saying GINGER is “exactly the type of music i wanna listen 2” on twitter.

On Aug. 23, the group released their long awaited fifth studio album titled GINGER. And, of course, keeping to a BROCKHAMPTON schedule, this project was released less than a year after releasing iridescence.

Impressively, this record connects the signature musicality of the group with the incredibly deep and reflective nature of its lyrics. The group has followed through with what seemed to have been the intention of iridescence, executing the discussion of the hectic year following the unfortunate departure of member, Ameer. The nostalgia and reflection is ever present in the record, while still feeling extremely current and necessary.

Here is a breakdown of the newly released GINGER and a guide to everything you need to know about the 12 song 44 minute project:

NO HALO – Produced by Jabari Manwa, and written by a collection of BROCKHAMPTON members including stand outs on the record Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, and Matt Champion, NO HALO is a perfect introduction the GINGER era. Opening with a nostalgic melodic choir and light acoustic finger picking, the track sets the stage for the reflective record ahead. Following the opening verse of Matt Champion, beautiful, almost childlike, harmonies are dispersed through the chorus. NO HALO debuts the collaboration with rising artist Deb Never, previously recognized in the work of hip hop collective 88 Rising. Impressively so, this track is a perfect setup to the mellow and reflective world the group created around this record.

SUGAR – SUGAR’s beautifully melodic opening is not to diminish the deep and reflective lyrics performed by guest on the track and honorary BH member Ryan Beatty, and star throughout the album Dom McLennon. SUGAR is book-ended with a similar guitar based finger picking previously heard in NO HALO; paired with slightly distorted and autotuned, yet beautiful, harmonies. If you listen to anything off this album, definitely check out SUGAR; after being out for less than 14 days, SUGAR has impressively surpassed cult favourite BLEACH, sitting at number one on their most popular tracks on Spotify.

BOY BYE– Switching up the tone and splitting the more serious balladesque pieces, BOY BYE is another stand out off the project. This track features vocal contributions from every member of the group, covering a wide range of topics in traditional BROCKHAMPTON fashion. Boastful lyrics about the group’s growing success are contrasted with introspective moments about its members’ traumatic pasts and upbringing, all while bouncing with a synth heavy, almost tropical beat. While the project doesn’t feature tracks similar to BOOGIE and HEAT on previous SATURATION era records, BOY BYE is one of the more upbeat songs off GINGER.

HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU – The shortest track, and oddly the fourth, off the record opens with an introduction to the GINGER era; Quite similar to the skit, scene, and cinema interludes found in the saturation trilogy. This track could be viewed as a precursor to the second track to follow it, IF YOU PRAY RIGHT, as they flow together seamlessly. That being said, in the context of the record the placement makes a lot of sense. The groups unconventional style of recording allows for HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU to separate the tone within the album; giving room for new topics of discussion, as well as new musicality. Still well composed and a solid transition through the album, HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU is more of a piece to tie together the record than to stand on its own.

ST. PERCY – Opening with a new vibe to the record, the monotone intonation and heavier beats bring a more familiar feeling to long time BROCKHAMPTON fans. Kevin Abstract opens the track, followed by another melodic interlude now signature to the boy band. The track is a full BH production, transitioning between hard hitting verses by Matt Champion and Dom McLennon, while also featuring classic Bearface verses and Merlyn Wood interruptions. This is a familiar sound and a stand out on the record and one of the bops of the record. Definitely give this track a few plays.

IF YOU PRAY RIGHT – Sitting as the longest track on the record and completing the phrase heavily representative of the project “If you pray right, heaven belongs to you,” a reference to the song “If You Pray Right (Heaven Belongs To You)” by Nina Simone, IF YOU PRAY RIGHT was the second single released precursing the record. Ranging from topics of Buddhism and monetary restrictions to reactions to a Jehovah’s Witness, the track features verses from five of the vocal members in the group; delving into the heavily discussed topic of religion on the album. Hard hitting 808’s open the record along with an underlying erie synth. This track is one that requires a few thorough listens to fully process it. The first verse is that of Dom McLennon; one of his best on the album. The odd melodies and unconventional vocal performances that follow, paired with trumpets, impressive synths and drums, as well as switch ups in bridges and melodies are unique to the group; IF YOU PRAY RIGHT is a signature BROCKHAMPTON arrangement.

DEARLY DEPARTED – Due to the subject matter of the record, this cinematic track buried within the album is quickly becoming a fan favorite. The impressive synth, guitar, and drum musicality flowing throughout the piece sets the tone perfectly for the mood in which this was recorded. Although it only features vocal performances from four of the members; Kevin Abstract, Joba, Matt Champion, and Dom McLennon respectively, this is one of, if not the most raw and reflective song the group has ever released. The record was recorded in the order of members appearances; each revealing another reflective layer that can be inferred from the intense title. Focusing on topics of loss and the trauma that comes with it, DEARLY DEPARTED is one that anyone can connect to. Whether it be a friend, relative, or ex-BH-member Ameer Vann, the record is extremely heavy hitting and emotional. The amount of attention the track is receiving can be attributed to McLennon’s verse; partly reflecting on his thoughts of the former group member being kicked out due to allegations against him; you can feel the raw emotion of the verse wrapping up the track with a breaking of headphones and mic.

I BEEN BORN AGAIN – Completely shifting the tone from the former track, I BEEN BORN AGAIN opens with mischievous whispering that later carries into a sermon like preach and wrapped up by Matt Champion explosive verse. There is no question as to why I BEEN BORN AGAIN was the lead single for this project. It features each member on the track and serves as one of the harder hitting records off the project, becoming more of a bop the further you get into the track. The Shangri-La, shouted out in Joba’s verse, happens to be the legendary recording studio of Rick Rubin where the track and some of the album was made; a big milestone in the group’s discography. IBBA is a record you could read into and study the credits and lyrics of, or just vibe along with; regardless of how you enjoy listening to music, this track is undoubtedly one of the stronger ones off the record and well worth your time.

GINGER – The title track of the album shifts the tone again; a more monotonous but still incredibly cinematic record like this is not common in the billboard charts but the unique BH twist on the recording process has proven its genius once again. The more mellow track features more heavily autotuned vocals, stand out drum beats, synths and harmonies. Although it serves as more of a transitional piece in the full tracklist, with less influx in intonation, it can stand well on its own and is clearly in this record for a reason.

BIG BOY – This track discusses another common theme on GINGER, coming of age. BIG BOY reminisces on feelings of growing up, masculinity, and suppression of emotions; the behavior that is often expected of “big boys.” The record is one of the more mellow to be seen on the project, continuing some of the monotonous tones seen in previous songs. With heavier synths and melodic piano slightly similar to some found in recent Tyler, the Creator project IGOR, BIG BOY is not to go unnoticed although it is found towards the end of the record.

LOVE ME FOR LIFE – The long awaited track was first teased at the beginning of the summer on both instagram and twitter with the caption “album this summer.” In true BH style, the rest of the album was not recorded yet and the introduction alone set the stage for the GINGER era. This song does a great job at encapsulating what the groups direction was with this project. Featuring everything from harder 808’s, impressive synths, catchy melodies and darker verses, LOVE ME FOR LIFE sets up the next year to come in BROCKHAMPTON’s eyes.

VICTOR ROBERTS – In signature BROCKHAMPTON style, no album is complete without a bearface ballad to wrap it up. This track, however, is a new spin on the signature bookend track found at the end of every album previously released by the group. Although originally intended to be titled “THANK GOD,” VICTOR ROBERTS is named after the new artist featured on the track and long time friend of the group. This is the most cinematic and moving piece on the project; the simplicity of slower moving piano chords with the narration of Roberts describing the real events that happened around him at age six pulls at the heartstrings. He shares the story of his family history dealing with police and helping someone by bringing them into their household, only to be betrayed when that someone is involved with crack cocaine, and you can 100% feel the emotion and passion expressed by the man who put his career on hold to care for the parents that went to prison when he was so young. Following the moving story, guest but honorary member of the group Ryan Beatty sings a short yet beautiful bridge along with the long awaited bearface ballad that perfectly ends the song. If you only hear one song off the album, it should without-a-doubt be VICTOR ROBERTS for its story and impact alone.

With every record, there will be negative feedback; people unhappy with a departure from the sound they original found the group or artist with. With that being said, BROCKHAMPTON’s numbers following the release week of their most recent project indicate a positive response. While fans are upset with the lack of hard hitting bops, similar to BOOGIE, HEAT, GOLD, and others, their popular tracks list on spotify is filled with 8/10 tracks from GINGER. The project seems to get better and more impressive with every full listen. Everything from beautiful melodies and orchestral sounds, historically unfamiliar to rap, to harder hitting beats and verses, can be attributed to why this album is definitely one worth a full listen.

You can check out the in depth description of track by track credits here, as well as the lyrics.