BROCKHAMPTON and the Beautiful Torment Behind ‘iridescence’

BROCKHAMPTON outdo themselves once again with their unique fourth studio album, iridescence.


Nicole Shaker, Editor-in-Chief

I award this album four stars.

BROCKHAMPTON has revealed itself to be a near-unstoppable force in the music scene throughout the last few months, now boasting a name known by most of the general public. With the release of their fourth studio album, iridescence, the members of the fourteen-person boy band showcase their versatility, originality, and poignancy. Although it does not improve upon the style present in the last three albums, it creates something completely different than what they have put out in the past, which is arguably just as significant to their musical repertoire.

The first standout aspect of the album is the cover—a thermal-filtered snapshot of a pregnant woman. This is not only a contrast to the style of previous album covers, but it gives way to theories as to what the album represents as a whole or perhaps hints at a covert message BROCKHAMPTON wants to share with fans. It is an interesting eye-grabber, and one of my favorite things about iridescence.

The sound of this collection is unique, not only for the boys but for rap as a genre. As a whole, it is quite dark, containing plaintive lyrics and heavy-hitting beats. It starts off on a strong note with “NEW ORLEANS.” Dom McLennon tackles the first verse aggressively in his usual superb manner— he’s one of the strongest in the group, in my opinion. Kevin Abstract, group leader, sings the chorus with an infectious beat. The bridge to the second verse, an edited vocal by bearface, is a powerful component to the track: “Boy, you know you don’t look fly/ Them gold chains turn your neck green, bye.” Matt Champion, one of the band’s other talents, takes the next verse with an aggression similar to McLennon’s. The highlight of the track is Verse 3, sung by one of the band’s most valuable members, Joba. He sings with his signature, imitating-insanity style, perfectly placing pauses for effect. The lyrics are some of the best on the track: “Impending death is the only sign of life/ I’m throwing Hail Marys ’til I die.” This song features Jaden Smith in the second chorus, a smart and effective complement to Abstract’s voice. Overall it is extremely well-executed and shows BROCKHAMPTON’s growing production talents.  

They put my head in the water and it’s so beautiful under…To make the darkness divine.

— Dom Mclennon

Track 2, “THUG LIFE”, is one of my favorites on the album due to its simple, mellow vibe and thoughtful lyrics. It is a perfect follow-up to the belligerence of “NEW ORLEANS.” McLennon beautifully delivers his lines: “It’s different reconciling with skeletons I ain’t know that I possessed…I’m learning to confess, this fate is harder to digest/ The biggest threat I’m up against is who I face in my reflection/ Depression still an uninvited guest…Can’t help but meet the feeling with a familiar embrace/ When I know that it’ll kill me if I give into my brain/ I see the shadows inside… They put my head in the water and it’s so beautiful under…To make the darkness divine.”

The third track, “BERLIN”, has more of a “NEW ORLEANS” vibe to it, the most standout aspect being the contagious beat and the clever chorus delivered by bearface. The rest of it is pretty standard—until Joba, who is anything but standard, takes the fourth verse. His voice is more subdued yet ironically comical as he sings, “You hung yourself, that’s not my fault, I just supplied the rope, ugh/ Most thoughts, I don’t think twice, make decisions I’ll die by/ Never asked for the drama, but I’ll turn it into dollars/ Dollars, dollars, dollars.”

“SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” is sung exclusively by Abstract as he admires a seemingly perfect man. It is raw and fleeting; Abstract sounds genuinely desperate as he tries to figure out why he loves his subject so much. It’s worth a few listens.  

“WHERE THE CASH AT” brings the aggression back with a bang. It is not my favorite on the album, Merlyn Wood delivering most of the song with too much bluntness. Champion does a characteristically great job with the quick second verse (his part usually always makes the song). This track feels fast, like an afterthought, and I feel like it could have been more effectively produced or perhaps omitted from the album.

“WEIGHT,” the next track, is absolutely breathtaking. Here, we go back to a softer sound; Abstract passionately speaks of his struggles and worries: “They split my world into pieces…I been feeling defeated, like I’m the worst in the boyband…’Cause I’m still worried ’bout when Ashlan finna put the razor down…I was writing poems ’bout her, dawg, in study hall/ And she was mad ’cause I never wanna show her off (scared)…I thought I had a problem, kept my head inside a pillow screaming.” This verse alludes to self-harm done by Aslan Grey, the band’s primary photographer and one of Abstract’s best friends. It then moves to an anecdote about when Abstract was discovering his sexuality in his youth, scared because he wasn’t attracted to his girlfriend. Joba starts Verse 2 off with “’Cause we’re born with a dollar sign attached to our temple” and ends with “In due time, the skies will split for the sun to smile.” The song maintains its beauty as it moves to Joba’s final verse in which he desperately sings of the effects pressure has on him. It ends on a disjointed sentence clause, but it feels beautifully complete.

I am not a huge fan of the next track, “DISTRICT,” as it has a similar feel to “WHERE THE CASH AT.” It feels a tad lazy, but it does have some really good parts, particularly in the verses of Joba, bearface, and Champion. Verse 6 is characteristically insane as Joba fanatically sings, “Praise Nicolas Cage, hallelujah! I’m still depressed/ At war with my conscience, paranoid, can’t find that s***/ Woo, praise Nicolas Cage, hallelujah! I’m still depressed/ At war with my conscience, paranoid, I can’t—” Abstract and bearface’s outro is interesting and contributes to the disjointed and unhinged feel of the song. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad.

“LOOPHOLE” is dialogue concerning misconceptions of fame and friends over a graceful orchestra. I’m not usually a fan of “talking songs” but this one is excusable due to its perfect placement in the album and support of the overall theme.

“TAPE” is pretty great and fits into the album’s style well. Abstract speaks of his insecurities in his usual raw manner: “I can barely rap, I can barely dance/ I can barely laugh, I can barely hang… I need a reason to care about society/ They need a good enough reason just to hire me/ But honestly, you see my mom can’t walk/ And her lungs don’t work like they used to/ I feel like it’s my fault ’cause of music…But truthfully, the words had damage and it’s cruel to me.” One of the standout lines in the track is in Champion’s verse: “Lose you in crowds, I see now, 14, I see ’em all inside of me now.” He references the number of members in the band, saying that he sees each one inside of him due to the extreme bond the boys share. The song doesn’t stand out from the collection, but it earns my respect.

“J’OUVERT” is a tad strange but makes for an interesting listen. Champion delivers a solid first verse and Joba’s chorus is weird in a good way; it’s electronic and stimulating. His second verse is wonderfully delivered, the bluntness and aggression he uses working beautifully for his message: “’Til the casket drops, I will play Nicolas Cage… Don’t act like I ain’t deserve this s***/ Couldn’t last a day inside my head/ That’s why I did the drugs I did… Looking down from they pedestals/ From that petty view…Pray for peace with a knife in my hand/ Speak my piece like a gun to my head/ Come equipped just to blast this s***t/ Misunderstood since birth… Still ain’t got the fright to the fickle-minded people/ I thought I knew better, wish I knew better/ Should have known better, wish that I was better.” Wood shines in this song with his uncharacteristically subdued third verse. Wood is a great artist, and he shines most when he isn’t trying his hardest to be dramatically comical.

“HONEY” is a solid fitting track for the album. I love the line, “What you want, what you want, emotion?” delivered by Abstract in the intro. His short first verse is delivered flawlessly over an infective beat. Wood’s second verse is highly edited but not distracting. McLennon’s verse is delivered in a slightly more rapid manner, boasting clever lyrics. The segue into Champion’s verse is a cut-up and vocally edited repetition of earlier lines over a graceful orchestra with Beyonce´ intermittently moaning “Yes” between lines— it’s a little weird but it gives way to an effective chopped and screwed sample of Champion’s intro on “BUMP”, released on the first SATURATION album. The song is evolved by the end, and it’s commendable.

Radiation is present, got my reflection iridescent…

— Dom Mclennon

Next track, “VIVID”, features some of Champion’s best work on the album as he raps with swagger: “¿Cómo se dice? Don’t touch on me with them dedos/ I minimize all your credentials, I maximize all of my pesos/ I want that dance that can do it, give it to me straight, don’t dilute it… What that smell like, oh, Chanel, way too deep like depths in hell… Talking smack, oh, don’t get lippy, love on you, oh, don’t forget me.” The chorus is a weird mix of unfinished words, leading way to McLennon’s verse, which is delivered in a very similar manner to Champion’s. Here we have the star line, “Radiation is present, got my reflection iridescent.” The rest of the verse contains real, clever lyrics before giving into an explosion of McLennon’s voice for the final lines: “I hit the button, they might come and leave your legacy vacant/ You paved a path we didn’t want to get demolished with aging.”

“SAN MARCOS” is a star track. Champion displays some of his most emotional work in the first verse, and Abstract’s autotuned bridge sets a calming mood for bearface’s passionate chorus. The highlight of the song is Joba’s honest verse: “Suicidal thoughts, but I won’t do it/ Take that how you want, it’s important I admit it/ I’m afraid of commitment, don’t know how to fix it/ Maybe codependent, can’t tell the difference/ When the push comes to shove, I’d rather bend than break/ But something’s gotta give, ain’t that what you say/ When you’re torn between reality, and a choice you could have made/ I should have made, they’re not the same, I’m not the same/ Maybe I’m broken, either way I’m clinging on closely/ I know it’s unhealthy, appreciate your patience/ I know that I’m selfish, do my best to be selfless/ I know that I’m changing, I know that I’m changing.”

“TONYA” is also commendable. It commences with a pretty piano tune and bearface’s best work on the album, including a poignant intro and first verse ending with, “I never wanted this s***.” The chorus is a repetition of “Hey, and I’ve been feelin’ like I don’t matter how I used to.”  Joba highlights the song with his bridge, as he always does, and Mclennon delivers with his verse, offering honest lyrics about his mental health.

“FABRIC” isn’t the strongest track, but it is a solid conclusion to the collection, the highlight being Joba’s slow and intoxicating fourth verse. The end of the song is a rapid increase in the pace of the chorus, a sudden cease to the beat, and a blunt conclusion in the spoken words, “I feel you.”

Overall, this album is innovative and worthy of four stars for execution, effort, and creativity. But when looking at the boys’ previous work, particularly in the SATURATION trilogy, it isn’t that special. That being said, I love how BROCKHAMPTON has evolved and hope they continue to do so, despite the hardships that they sing of. The boys have really matured and I, and all of their growing fanbase, am proud of them.