The American hip-hop collective BROCKHAMPTON released their fifth album, GINGER, in August of this year. The group consists of four vocalists, three producers, two who do both, as well as a graphic designer, a photographer, a web designer, and their manager making for 13 members in total.
The album has 12 tracks on it, all of which vary greatly in length. The first of these tracks, NO HALO has guitar plucking at the beginning that acts as misdirection. The listener doesn’t necessarily think that this is the opening to a rap song. Kevin abstract sings the lines “I don’t know where I’m goin’ If I gotta take the high road, I’m rollin’” which act as an intro but the lines are also repeated throughout the rest of the song. If you knew nothing about BROCKHAMPTON and decided to give the album a listen I think you would be surprised once the first verse kicks in and Matt Champion begins rapping. Although the verses are enjoyable, the bridge by bearface is easily my favorite part of the song. It is sung with a lot of emotion and the harmonies are really simplistic. To me, this gives it a sort of floaty feeling. It is a comforting moment in the song, somewhere between the fast verses and the sweetly sung chorus.
Although it is incredibly difficult to choose a favorite song on this album, SUGAR is almost definitely mine. The song opens with a guitar part similar to the one in NO HALO that plays behind the chorus of the song sung by Ryan Beatty. Beatty is an alternative singer and isn’t a member of BROCKHAMPTON but he has collaborated with the group in the past. His Voice is a welcome addition to this track as it feels natural within the song. One thing that I noticed is that nearly all of the voices in this song sound at least a little edited which I think is an interesting choice for a song with acoustic guitar making up the majority of the backing track. To me, the second verse, by Matt Champion, sounds the most raw and unedited which makes it stand out within the track. It also might be my favorite verse on the whole album. Despite there being great contrast between his verse and the rest of the song it somehow doesn’t feel out of place at all. The change of pace and natural vocals in an otherwise slower and mostly sung and heavily edited song works really well.
BOY BYE is my other favorite on the album but for very different reasons. The song (as long as I don’t listen to the lyrics too hard) just makes me happy and that was the group’s intention. In an interview with one of the group’s vocalists Dom McLennon he says that the aim was to create a song “that mixed the playfulness of a song like Gucci Gang with the seriousness of a song like All Falls Down”. Gucci Gang by Lil Pump is almost entirely a joke song. It is satirical but also not because the things in the song that would be “jokes” are things that Lil Pump often raps about in his music. But it is without a doubt, playful in tone. Where All Falls Down by Kanye West featuring Syleena Johnson, has a more serious subject matter but the tone and pacing isn’t so depressing that you “can’t play it at a cookout” McLennon continues. A mix of these two songs is an interesting concept but I think it was achieved with BOY BYE. It is very catchy, similarly to Gucci Gang and it is playful in its delivery but when you take a closer look at the lyrics, the subject matter is a bit more serious than the tone of the song would lead you to believe. The song is BROCKHAMPTON’s only song to feature every vocalist as well as have every producer involved in the production and I think that is why there are so many themes present in this song. In McLennon’s verse he discusses depression and dealing with fame. In Kevin Abstract’s verse he talks about his childhood trauma related to his sexuality as well as a struggle with addiction. These are only some of the subjects touched on in this song but It is already clear that the upbeat nature of the song betrays the serious subject matter.
IF YOU PRAY RIGHT is one of the few songs on the album without a sung chorus but on streaming platforms it does have an outro sung by Kevin Abstract. However, in the music video, The outro is an unreleased song that was recorded for Abstract’s solo album ARIZONA BABY titled HOOD STILL LOVE ME that did not make the album. IF YOU PRAY RIGHT’s backing track has a very prominent horn part which I immediately loved when I heard this song for the first time. I always love instruments in music genres where they don’t traditionally appear. Like Pinc Louds’ song Soul in My Body features a kalimba on the instrumentals which I think is the coolest thing. Unfamiliar textures in sound can add a lot to music that otherwise might not be very distinct. The other prominent sound in this track is a sample of Three 6 Mafia’s Break da Law ‘95. This sample is another way that IF YOU PRAY RIGHT is connected to another track on the album HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU. Aside from the sample, the two tracks have the same instrumentals and their song names go together into a single phrase “If you pray right, heaven belongs to you”. All of the songs on this album are very skillfully intertwined with little bits of instrumentals and references to lyrics from different songs on the album bleeding into other tracks. These subtle tie ins ensure that all of the tracks on the album fit together incredibly well to where it is hard to find a complaint with a single track because they all integral to the product.
One thing I’ve struggled with is to find similar artists to BROCKHAMPTON. Although many of the members have solo careers as well (most notably, Kevin Abstract) there’s something about the group as a whole that can’t be matched by just one member. Artists that have featured alongside BROCKHAMPTON like Mxrc Clxrk, Jaden Smith and Ryan Beatty are probably the closest you will get to similar music. But the fact that their music is so hard to pin down speaks volumes about the uniqueness of the group’s sound.
Overall, GINGER has a lot of variety in it’s songs that I could see appealing to a multitude of different music tastes and preferences. Whether you’re familiar with BROCKHAMPTON already or you’re just looking for some new music GINGER is an album that I would highly recommend.