Hip-hop collectives are a loaded proposition. When listening to a group, you’re buying into a widely varying number of different production styles, vocal tics, lyrical obsessions, and musical ability. Some units, like 50 Cent’s G-Unit and Eminem’s D12, had designated leaders who commanded every aspect of the output. Others have a stacked roster of stars who are lead by a benevolent captain that is just as willing to let the other talents shine, like the Wu-Tang Clan or Odd Future — and then some are just glorious messes, like the A$AP Mob.
So where does that put Brockhampton? Like A$AP Mob, they’re a nebulous group of a million different members. Like Odd Future, they have contributors that aren’t explicitly musical. Like G-Unit, there is a very clear guy in charge: Kevin Abstract. But what do all these other groups have that Brockhampton lacks? That certain allure that really pulls you in.
OK, here’s the truth: I never “got” Brockhampton. To me, they completely ride or die on Abstract’s shoulders, and I’m fairly lukewarm on him. I can see he’s a talented producer and lyricist, but none of their music ever really moved the needle for me. None of it is especially bad, but every song I hear makes me think of a better song by somebody else.
You know who is one of those “somebody else” figures? Danny Brown. That’s probably why ‘Buzzcut’ is my favourite Brockhampton song that I’ve ever heard: because Danny Brown shows up halfway through and completely steals the song.
There’s no mistaking that nasally flow. The second it comes in, you just know. Brown’s verse is a welcome shake up to the typical Brockhampton formula. Abstract gets in a fine verse shouting out to his mom, but it plays like the 500 other Kevin Abstract verses in the group’s catalogue.
At his best, Danny Brown feeds off the talent and energy of his fellow collaborators. Schoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt all included. The best example is probably ‘Negro Spiritual’ from 2019’s uknowwhatimsayin, which has JPEGMafia, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat all on the same song. But when the talent doesn’t rise with him, Brown overshadows the proceedings, and sadly that’s what happens on ‘Buzzcut.’ After two listens, I very quickly did not care about anything other than Brown’s verse.
Take a listen to ‘Buzzcut’ and decide for yourself. The accompanying album, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, is due out on April 9th.