Due to my recent noted history covering the Texas-based hip hop collective Brockhampton, there have been, let’s call them “mixed reactions”, among my family and friends. One of my roommates jokingly accused me of not liking gay people (which, for the record, I do), and my brother (also jokingly) summed it up in a more succinct fashion: “You don’t like Brockhampton? Man, fuck you.”
So what’s the deal? Am I a 22-year-old man with the cultural acumen of an 80-year-old? Well, yes (some of my prominent activities over the past few days: playing golf, watching golf, doing the Sunday crossword, falling asleep at 9pm), but I’m still a fan of rap music, especially the alternative rap that much of Brockhampton’s music falls into. Am I against rap collectives specifically? Nope: Odd Future, G-Unit, and A$AP Mob all have prominent places in my music collection. What is it that keeps me from embracing the preeminent hip-hop boyband?
Like I have said in the previous articles covering Brockhampton: I’m just not a big fan of them. There’s nothing specific, or even in general, that I dislike about the group. They make well-produced, well-written, well-performed hip-hop as a multicultural collective with a leader who acts as a positive role model for kids who need to see more LGBTQ+ figures in a genre as historically homophobic as hip-hop. That’s great, but they’re not for me. Some people don’t like bananas, some people don’t like watching football; I don’t like Brockhampton. That’s it.
So, because of my concerted efforts to make it clear that the group is not my favourite, the honour has been bestowed on me to cover everything that they do, now and forever, until the end of time. Lucky me.
That means I was tasked with reviewing Brockhampton’s latest release, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine. I take my job as a music journalist/culture writer seriously, so I unfolded my arms, left my judgment at the door, and queued up the thirteen-track release that is, allegedly, the band’s last album.
Track one: ‘Buzzcut’. OK, I already reviewed this one, and it’s pretty much the same as the last time I heard it, but this is an easy place to start. I still like Danny Brown’s verse. Kevin Abstract still loves his mother. I still don’t know who let the doughboys out, and I still hope that becomes the next Baha Men single. Are the Baha Men still together? Wait, I can’t get distracted this quickly. Stay the course. Stay professional.
Track two: ‘Chain On’. That’s a pretty chill beat, I’m liking that. Holy shit, JPEGMAFIA is on this track? Maryland’s own? Awesome! DMV represent. Side note: I saw JPEGMAFIA perform at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, where I worked and went to school. He was told not to rile the crowd and not to break anything. The first thing he did was dive into the pit. It was glorious. His endless stream of pop culture references always delight, and here he gets the chance to pair up Dua Lipa and Duolingo, which is just delightful. Also, any song that pays respect to the Wu is good with me.
Track three: ‘Count on Me’. I’ve already done this one too. Next.
Track four: ‘Bankroll’. Holy shit, A$AP’s Rocky and Ferg are on this track? Awesome! This is the probably first time that Ferg actually outshines Rocky. His verse is pretty hype. Otherwise, it’s rather dense for a three-minute track. The beat switch at the end is interesting, it’s rappers talking about how rich they are. Cool. Cash is the current number one recurring theme on the album. Let’s see if that changes.
Track five: ‘The Light’. Alright, here’s where I’m really feeling it. The commentary from Joba and Abstract about the struggles in their personal lives and the subsequent effect they have on the way they live their public lives is deep, complex, and engrossing. Abstract’s verse also reference’s the band’s record deal that is likely the source of calling every album their last. That was really good. I hope this is trending in the right direction.
Track six: ‘Windows’. Damn it.
Track seven: ‘I’ll Take You On’. After the maddeningly long posse cut, the album course corrects with an R&B flavoured love song.
Track eight: ‘Old News’. Wait, so a love song is followed by a heartbreak song? I guess that’s an interesting contrast. But, guys, this is where I lose my mind: Baird references Joni Mitchell’s ‘Coyote’ in his verse. This is now my favourite song on the album. It also contributes to my personal opinion that the Brockhampton members are always outshined by their guests whenever and wherever they appear.
Tracks nine, ten, and eleven: ‘What’s The Occasion?’, ‘When I Ball’, and ‘Don’t Shoot Up The Party’. Damn it, the Nationals lost again. We suck. At least we don’t choke away quality starts like the Mets.
Track twelve: ‘Dear Lord’. Hey, look, a bearface solo joint, and the song is a tribute to Joba as a show of support following his father’s suicide? That’s the kind of thing that is impervious to snarky online criticism.
Track thirteen: ‘The Light Pt. II’. This is the exact same song as the first part. The first part is good, but was it really necessary to repeat it? Maybe it’s just to drive home the inward introspection that the album as a whole has covered? I’m all for that, but can’t you make it a different song? No? OK, sorry for asking.
Alright, so that was a more spiritual, more emotionally charged experience than all five of Brockhampton’s previous albums combined. I liked it. I still don’t like Brockhampton all that much, but this album has moved me from a neutral dislike of the group to a purely neutral position. If that really was the collective’s last album, then it’s a high note the group can end on. Good for them — and now I can go back to my crossword. Where did I leave my pen…
Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine is available to buy and stream now.