All things considered, it’s been a pretty uneventful year in terms of hip-hop album releases. We got Drake’s More Life back in March, which fizzled out about as quickly as his phony cockney accent got annoying. (“But Ben,” you may be saying out loud, “that wasn’t an album. That was a playlist. Drake said it himself.” Fine. It was still poor, as was his decision to rap about “tings” right at the beginning of the “playlist.” I mean, if you’re going to make a bad attempt at grime rap, at least put it at the end. Anyways, tings just didn’t work out for me and More Life.)
Tyler, The Creator released his fourth album Flower Boy in July, which was pretty well received. Much of the attention that this release got, however, was focused on Tyler’s coming out on the album. Discussions over how Tyler fits into the queer community surrounded this project, as opposed to the music on the album itself.
It was one of Tyler’s most mature albums to date, but I was frustrated at the overwhelming obsession with his sexuality, and its portrayal as problematic. The best answer to the question, “How do we deal with Tyler, The Creator as part of queer culture?” is: you just do. Leave Tyler alone.
Jay-Z came out with a new album, 4:44, which was great at parts, and pretty bland at others. He’s still the “King of New York,” but we can only see that in glimpses during this album. It has a few good singles to return to, such as “4:44,”, “Family Feud”, and “The Story of O.J.” but the rest is discardable.
I couldn’t continue without giving credit to Kendrick Lamar; DAMN was great, but we all saw that coming, didn’t we? Kendrick makes fantastic albums in his sleep. (His b-sides album, Untitled Unmastered was one of the best hip-hop albums of last year.)
That brings me to BROCKHAMPTON. The rap collaborative founded in Texas, in 2015, has awoken the rap game which had been falling asleep at the wheel. The group of more than a dozen members have released two projects this summer, aptly named Saturation and Saturation II. Mostly between the ages of 20-24, the group consists of six core vocalists: Kevin Abstract and Ameer Vann (the original founders), Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Matt Champion, and Russell Boring a.k.a. JOBA. Apart from the vocalists, there are also several other producers and contributors, bringing the total number of members to 15-strong.
Both albums are equally thrilling, intense, strange and just outright fun. BROCKHAMPTON possess the youthful and rebellious nature of an Odd Future, while spitting over the unique beats rap fans are accustomed to hearing from a Danny Brown. Each member brings their own individual style to the music; it’s clear they could all have fruitful solo careers (Kevin Abstract has a solo project very different from his work with BROCKHAMPTON, titled American Boyfriend), but together they are a cohesive collective rarely seen before in recent hip-hop history, especially considering their ages. On both studio albums, the music is incomparably creative and undoubtedly excellent, from start to finish. Not only do they provide catchy bangers (the songs “JUNKY” and “BUMP”), but also some feel-good and vibey R&B tracks as well (the songs “SUMMER” and “SWIM”).
Without a doubt, BROCKHAMPTON are frontrunners for the rap project of the year with two different albums, take your pick on which you prefer; I still can’t decide whether I like Saturation or Saturation II more. With a third project confirmed to be dropping before the end of the year,
— kevin (@kevinabstract) October 18, 2017
large things are on the horizon for the young Texas collective.