Saturation II: Reviewed
This is a paper I wrote for my Music History class freshman year.
Delivering arguably the most unique sound in today’s hip-hop industry, the fifteen member South Los Angeles based boy band, Brockhampton brought back the energy and sound they pioneered in Saturation I with its sequel, Saturation II on August 25th, 2017. Flooding listeners ears with sixteen new tracks just two months after the release of their second album, Brockhampton truly is saturating the hip-hop market with their unique sound. Even releasing a fourth album, Saturation III, just four months after in December.
Largely regarded as an alternative hip-hop group, the self identified boy band was originally created as AliveSinceForever after one of the members, Kevin Abstract, made a post on the online forum KanyeLive asking if anyone wanted to form a band. After releasing one EP as AliveSinceForever in 2013, the band disbanded and regrouped as Brockhampton in 2014. They focused on highlighting their members with their debut album All-American Trash on March 24th, 2016. With a new focus seemingly placed on crafting their unique sound, Brockhampton released the first album of the Saturation Trilogy, Saturation I on June 9th, 2017 to critical acclaim and gained significant attention in the industry.
Though fifteen sounds like a lot of creative heads to collaborate in one group, the individual members’ roles vary between vocals, production, branding, photography, management and more. They share a message of self-confidence, with each member sharing their perspective with equal importance and conviction, Brockhampton is truly about expressing themselves through creativity. For example, producer and vocalist Joba suffers from severe mental health problems that he openly discusses in songs like “SWEET,” while founder Kevin Abstract takes stances on homophobia in rap culture in “JUNKY.” Their diversity of influences and styles is largely what allows them to create such a unique catalog of multi-genre tracks ranging from hip-hop to alternative r&b.
One of the stand out tracks of the album, “SWEET” starts off with a punchy boom-bap drum beat laid over a heavily filtered and distorted indian vocal sample loop. Vocalist, Matt Champion is the first to present himself on this unorthodox rap beat, lyrically sharing his struggle with self-identity while asserting his willingness to present himself genuinely in his music. In the third line he says “In Tejas apartments with racists doin’ weird shit / Like, this’ll make the biopic (haha).” With an absurd and stream of conscious line, Matt Champion implies to listeners his inflated expectations of success, nonchalantly fantasizing about his future biopic while living his life. Soon after, he counters this very mindset with a self-interrogating, call and response section asking himself questions like “Whatchu mean, you ain’t finding yourself?” and replying in a cartoonishly high-pitched version of himself with “oh, I am, I’m trying.” The overarching theme of all of Brockhampton’s music is rooted in their members’ ability to convey emotional message in consumable and often energetic music, and Matt Champion’s contribution to this song is a prime example of just that.
Later in the same track, producer and vocalist Joba brings a stark melodic contrast to the track singing the lines “It’s funny how things can change / Three hundred dollars to my name, left to Hollywood.” He quickly transitions into a falsetto segment addressing his gripes with the education system with “Growing up my teachers told me / ‘You better get them grades up if you wanna finish high school / And after high school, you better get a degree’.” The fast paced, high pitched and energetic nature of this segment lends itself beautifully into packaging a serious stance on a societal aspect in a way that finds itself right at home among many other influences and perspectives on the very same track. The fact that all members are given equal importance and all share the ability to deliver their concepts with the utmost confidence and conviction only serves to reaffirm their message of expression, creativity, and growth.
In the tenth track “JUNKY,” Kevin Abstract drops a vulgar second line “he gave me good head, peepin out while the windows tinted,” while explicitly sexual, Abstract uses this line to address expressing his sexuality in secrecy. Touching on his struggles with sexuality once again with the lines “I told my mom I was gay, why the fuck she ain’t listen? / I signed a pub deal and her opinion fuckin’ disappearing,” Kevin Abstract shares that even his own mother wouldn’t accept him for being gay until he had money, establishing his feeling of distrust towards his own mother through his lyrics as well as his emotional and angry vocal delivery.
Brockhampton’s willingness to publish music with charged lyrics making commentary on social, emotional and political issues is a key factor of their popularity in the youth as well as among critics. On the same track, vocalist Ameer Vann shares his very real struggle with drug addiction, mental health and his own demons. His psychoanalytical lines such as “I need an intervention, I need an exorcism / I need a therapist, paranoia and drug addiction” as well as “My acts of desperation, I’m on an empty stomach / So fuck the consequences, I ain’t runnin’ from them” are delivered with an aggressive growl that parallels that of Kevin Abstract in his prior verse. The group’s ability to work off of each other to solidify the overall mood and tone of a track goes to show how effectively the members fuse as a collective.
All of their countless creative influences make it hard to squeeze the musical spectrum of Brockhampton into the box of any single genre. Ranging from more traditional rap bangers such as “CHICK,” to spacy melodic tracks with instrumentals that take influences from genres like shoegaze and indie rock like “SUNNY” and “SUMMER,” their extremely unique and diversified sound signature surely stems from the sheer number of creatives that work under this one collective. With fifteen creative young minds living and working together towards the same goal of making music, it isn’t at all surprising that you can find so many varied sounds on the same album.
However, Brockhampton tries to makes it clear that this isn’t just a mixtape, Saturation II is not just a random handful of tracks with an album title slapped on it. Evidence for this lies within the more eccentric, postmodern and sometimes downright absurd aspects of their music. The sixth track “SCENE” is not a song, it’s a skit over an ominous instrumental containing piano, ambient noise and the group’s resident webmaster Robert Ontenient speaking in spanish about drowning in milk in a bowl of cereal. Reading between the lines, it’s apparent that the drowning is a metaphor for hardships of love and heartbreak. Not only is this a very absurd way of presenting the classic topic of heartbreak, but this skit is the sole explanation for why the track “MILK” from Saturation I is titled the way it is. The entangled, intricate and eclectic nature of Brockhampton’s work serves to show that even the absurd and abnormal elements of their creativity are calculated and meaningful and are not done solely for the sake of being weird or edgy. The level of abstraction that they apply to their many ideas, perspectives and creative concepts goes to show that Brockhampton is a postmodern look at internet, pop and hip-hop culture.
As Ameer Vann said in an interview after the release of Saturation I, Brockhampton is “musical vomit, [they] just throw it up, [they] can’t resist the urge.” Their experimental and confident nature solidifies their message of self-expression. It’s been made clear that their collective is a welcoming space for members to try new things and experiment creatively, and they want their audience to fall into the same mindset with their own lives. As a group, Brockhampton has basically created a creative playground for themselves, a place to freely express their thoughts, opinions and feelings in ways that undoubtedly has had therapeutic self-assuring impacts on not only the members themselves but also on the lives of their loyal fans.
Should you buy this album? Even if hip-hop and/or r&b are not your preferred genres, it’s truly inspirational to see what dedication and confidence are capable of when it comes to pioneering and perfecting a unique sound, message, and collective brand. As I found myself more and more fascinated by each member’s unique influence on the collective sound, I began to see myself relating to a lot of the struggles and emotions that are touched upon throughout the album. Soon enough I found myself very inspired to express myself through music, something I had never thought I would be doing a few years ago in high school. While it’s bold to claim that everyone who listens to Saturation II will want to pick up a pen and write a song, I truly believe that Brockhampton highlights the importance of expression and growth in a way that many listeners can resonate with and perhaps act upon in their own, unique ways. After all, Brockhampton has made it clear that sometimes, it’s all about standing out in the crowd.