Roadrunner feels like the next step in the evolution of Brockhampton and is almost exactly the kind of album I was hoping for from them. This is my favorite Brockhampton album.
Looking back over the last few years, not too many artists have been as important to my music taste as Brockhampton. It was around the time I got into Brockhampton that I started broadening my music taste, and their music has been a huge part of my life and has in a way felt like the soundtrack to the last few years for me. As Brockhampton’s music has grown and changed and gotten more mature, so have I.
I became a fan shortly after the release of Saturation 3 when I was 15, and I quickly fell in love with the group. I loved how creative and different they were in comparison to what I was listening to at the time, and they just had such a cool vibe and aesthetic to their music and videos. And while none of the Saturation albums were perfect and definitely had flaws, they all had absolutely fantastic highlights and established the group as one of the most exciting groups in music.
And while 2018 was a turbulent year for them, they released Iridescence, which up until this album was my favorite Brockhampton project. Sure, it wasn’t as immediately catchy and wasn’t as eccentric and fun as a lot of Saturation was, but it was their most mature and experimental release to date. This album also came as I started listening to more experimental music. Iridescence felt like going through trauma and felt like dealing with a range of emotions, from anger to sadness to self-doubt, and I saw myself in a lot of it.
And if Iridescence was trauma, Ginger felt like it was the therapy session coming to terms with it. While Ginger is in my opinion the weakest album from Brockhampton (I still love it), the album had some incredible highlights and I appreciated the maturity and sadness that it displayed. Yeah, it felt identity-less at times, the tracklist had a strange flow, and some members such as Kevin had some underwhelming performances, but I still look back on that album positively and I even saw Brockhampton perform at Gov Ball in 2019. And it was clear to me when I saw them perform that they were much much bigger than they had been just a few years before. And with the success of Sugar, the band found themselves charting on the Hot 100, collaborating with Dua Lipa, and performing on Ellen and Jimmy Fallon.
And since Ginger, it’s been a strange two years. With this new success, I was worried that they would lean more into a commercial direction and start to abandon the things that made Brockhampton appealing to me. But instead, the next thing we got were the Technical Difficulties singles and streams, in which we heard unfinished demos and previously unreleased tracks. These tracks varied sonically, as there were some poppy and commercial songs, but there were also some hard-hitting bangers and some old-school rap tracks on some boom-bap flavored production, and it was these songs that really excited me. These songs were the sound I was hoping for going forward.
So, with the announcement of Roadrunner I was incredibly excited. There was a teaser video I loved with a hard hitting verse (which ended up being Windows), and I absolutely loved the lead single “Buzzcut” featuring Danny Brown, as it was exactly the direction I wanted them to go in. But shortly after the release of that track I started to get worried. They revealed the cover art (which I absolutely hate) and released Count On Me as a single. And while I like Count On Me and thought it was solid, it was just underwhelming and probably one of my least favorite Brockhampton singles ever. It felt like it was trying to replicate the success of Sugar in a way, and that scared me. I also thought it was a strange idea to release singles where only two members have a full verse.
Anyway, on the day before the album came out I saw that the album leaked. Usually I’d listen to it, but I wanted to hear it when it released at midnight and it took everything in me to not listen. However, I did decide to listen to the CD bonus tracks that leaked, as they weren’t going to be coming to streaming services anyway. And honestly, I didn’t really like any of them and thought they were some of the worst songs I’d heard from Brockhampton. So after this I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But holy FUCK was this everything I could have wanted.
I’ve listened to this album basically nonstop for the last few days, and it’s still kind of difficult to categorize and organize my thoughts on it. And in the last few days, I’ve gone back and listened to their past albums and tried to understand why i believe this is their best album. And I think I know why: it’s the growth shown throughout this album.
As I listened to Roadrunner for the first time, I was definitely impressed and loved it, but it wasn’t until I reached “The Light” that I was truly wowed. That song might be my favorite Brockhampton song of all time, and it’s one of the few songs to ever hit me like it did on first listen, along with “The Light Pt. II”. It’s songs like these that really push this album to being my favorite of theirs, even though there are so many other excellent songs on here.
Across this album, there were seriously like 0 complete misses. Almost every song was fantastic, especially the more hip-hop inspired tracks, and the features were consistently pretty great as well. Tracks like “Buzzcut”, “Chain On” & “Windows” are such great rap tracks with fantastic production and verses, and are the kinds of songs I love from Brockhampton. Then you have your bangers, such as “Bankroll” and “Don’t Shoot Up The Party”, which are both great songs, and the latter is probably one of their best songs in this lane since the trilogy. You also have your chill and smooth tracks, such “What’s The Occasion?” with a fantastic outro, and the smooth Chad Hugo produced “When I Ball”, which are both great as well. Unfortunately, there are a few melodic cuts, such as “Old News” that I don’t think work 100% and don’t think they were necessary, but I do like them and don’t think they really hurt the quality of the album.
While some members obviously stand out more than others on here, unlike other Brockhampton albums there isn’t one member I can point to and say they were underwhelming on here. Matt continues to be one of my favorites in the group and come through with great performances, Merlyn is still classic Merlyn, Dom has some great verses, Bearface isn’t used a ton on here but when he is it’s great, Jabari is now a vocalist and isn’t bad, Kevin comes through with his best verses and performances since the Saturation trilogy, and Joba...well fucking Joba is a star and absolutely steals the show. For him to articulate and write what he did after what he went through is so impressive and I really hope he is ok.
The features also are something that is fairly new and different for Brockhampton, but I think it adds a lot to the album. To start off the album, Danny Brown’s verse on “Buzzcut” is great and JPEGMAFIA has one of the best verses on the album on “Chain On”. ASAP Rocky’s two contributions aren’t amazing but are pretty solid, and ASAP Ferg’s verse on “Bankroll” is pretty energetic and gives the track a cool start as well. SoGone SoFlexy has one eh verse on “Count On Me”, but also one standout verse to open up “Windows” that completely makes up for it. And then lastly there are the guest vocals from Shawn Mendes and Charlie Wilson, who both add a lot to their respective tracks, and there’s Baird, who is on one of the lesser songs but has a solid performance on that song. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy features on an album from a group that already had a lot of members, but I actually enjoyed it and hope it’s something they do more.
Overall, Roadrunner feels like their most realized album, which makes sense given how long they spent on it. It is once again not perfect, but it is one of their most consistent albums and has some of their best songs ever. The production is fantastic, the performances from the members and the features are great, and the maturity, the vulnerability, and the introspection shown on this album is remarkable. If it’s true that their next one is their last, it’s gonna be difficult to top this.
Fav Tracks: BUZZCUT, CHAIN ON, BANKROLL, THE LIGHT, WINDOWS, WHAT’S THE OCCASION?, WHEN I BALL, DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY, DEAR LORD, THE LIGHT PT II
Least Fav Tracks: OLD NEWS