By SAMUEL AMADEO
Brockhampton. America’s best boy band that flew onto the scene in 2017, releasing three critically acclaimed albums in the Saturation trilogy. With each member equally talented and skilled as the next, each person on the team of mixers and producers are considered a part of their squad. Brockhampton used the various voices and diverse tones of their members over self-made beats to create something fresh and intriguing. This leap of faith to express their musical talents in a new, distinctive way paid off and Saturation III reached number five on the US Billboard 200 list by the end of 2017. The quick rise to fame from a group of young artists who released three acclaimed albums in a single year made them early prospects for multiple Grammy nominations; however, they would not appear on the ballot in any category for the 60th Grammy Awards.
They reassured their fans they were not fazed by being “overlooked” at the Grammys and announced their fourth studio album, Team Effort, would be delayed indefinitely and replaced by Puppy. In early 2018, fans were elated to hear Brockhampton had signed with RCA Records for six albums over three years for an estimated $15 million. RCA is a record company who also represents artists SZA, Alicia Keys, the Foo Fighters, Khalid and Pentatonix. Everything seemed to be rolling smoothly for this group of talented young men and the future looked bright and exciting, but the good momentum would be brought to a quick halt in May of 2018. Co-founder and front man, Ameer Vann, was accused of sexual assault of a minor a few years prior, along with accusations of mental and verbal abuse committed in his past relationships. Vann had been open about his past behavior in many of Brockhampton’s songs and how he was using the start of a career in music as an opportunity to change for the better; however, he would end up being removed from the band and Brockhampton canceled their remaining tour dates to “go home and regroup.” For an entire month, Brockhampton would stay out of the public spotlight and their once promising future now looked bleak.
Brockhampton would reappear in June as the musical guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon performing a new song titled, TONYA. The song was received as powerful, beautiful and something coming from a group standing united in the wake of tragedy. They also announced their next trilogy’s title, The Best Years of Our Lives. Over the summer of 2018, they would release three singles, each well received by critics and fans alike. On the 26 of August they announced the first installment in their new trilogy would be Iridescence, which is a word meaning a lustrous, rainbow-like play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves, often seen in soap bubbles and fish scales. Their fourth studio album and first installment in The Best Years of Our Lives trilogy, Iridescence, was released on the 21 of September. The album consists of 15 songs and feature vocals from Jaden Smith and the London Community Gospel Choir, and samples from Radiohead and Beyoncé; as with their previous albums, Iridescence was critically acclaimed, as it should be.
Fans were unsure what to expect from Brockhampton in the wake of such heartache and speculation surrounded the album before its release. As should be expected by now this revolutionary boy band put out a piece of art given heart, soul and passion. They successfully navigated their way around new sounds and styles, laying the groundwork for future Brockhampton projects. Yet, the motif of the album stuck out as similar to an album I had listened to nearly two months ago and whose artist had recently passed away. That’s right, Mac Miller’s fifth and final studio album, Swimming. Both Miller and Brockhampton had suffered the loss of someone extremely close; additionally, both Miller and the boys of Brockhampton have similar pasts and struggles. Many would expect sad, heartbreaking songs from such tortured artists, but they chose a different route, one that is extremely refreshing.
Specifically, the boys of Brockhampton have dark pasts, such as being a victim of homophobia and experiencing the death of a high school boyfriend to drug dealing, and difficult but relatable struggles in their present lives, such as mental health issues and nicotine addiction. The band was collectively heartbroken removing Ameer from the group as he had been a brother to them as member Kevin Abstract says in TONYA:
“I’ve been in my feelings on an island in the dirt // I feel like brothers lie just so my feelings don’t get hurt // I said I’ll try vacation, I’ll try to run away.”
Instead of wallowing in their sorrows they look at their situation from a different perspective. Each sadly knows suffering and pain but learned how to climb out from the very darkest corners of life. It will sting harsh and be sore for a while, but in time, it will eventually heal. Moreover, each member was more complex than being defined by that one situation. They had to adjust to a life of fame and fortune while maintaining personal relationships, creating new music and taking care of themselves. It’s this adjustment to new circumstances, whether they are good or bad, which defines the motif of Iridescence. Brockhampton suggests the best way to handle this adjustment is to be calm and hopeful, and especially to not get beat up when mistakes are made or an effort results in failure. To take courage in admitting personal faults and put in honest effort to change; to follow the heart and mind instead of surrendering to the loud, pitiful sound all around.
The members of Brockhampton, like Miller, understand life brings much undeserved suffering and to be overly shocked and easily shaken by them is naïve. Pain and pleasure, good times and bad times, love and sorrow are cycles in life and days will get better in time. Seek out happiness to consume when the heart cannot produce enough, be that through various, lovely interests, skills and talents. Swimming was the first time a hip-hop artist had suggested a calm, relaxed and positive mindset would be an impenetrable wall protecting hope during the worst of times. Brockhampton confirmed this similar idea in Iridescence, telling a much-needed message to a teen and young adult audience suffering from similar issues. Explaining the best solution, though difficult, is to be hopeful and optimistic, ask for help, take responsibility, be proud of individuality and always be generous to others and kind to oneself.