Watching a band that is as unfaltering in their constant knack for creativity and vision as Brockhampton is in action is a truly mesmerizing sight to behold. I honestly feel bad for anyone who won’t be able to get into Brockhampton’s music before their supposed disbandment at the end of the year as following around the artistic metamorphosis Brockhampton has foregone since the days of the Saturation trilogy has been like watching a movie, with every twist-and-turn, change in sound, and each member finding themselves as artists all being major plot points. Each Brockhampton album has brought something new to the Brockhampton canon; the Saturation trilogy established the group as faces to be reckoned in the rap scene, terminal bars, braggadocious personalities behind the mic, effortless beat riding, and aberrant production tricks, meanwhile, iridescence was a knee-jerked, not thoroughly calculated, and rather incohesive response to the allegations that came with band member Ameer’s resignation. Ginger, on the other hand, served as a maturation point for Brockhampton, further fleshing out the negative emotions that were vaguely touched upon on iridescence.
Roadrunner continues this tendency of progression as it sees the band attempting to find light, and with it, solace within life’s many misgivings along with the possibility of a higher power. It is, by a vast landslide, their most vulnerable and cathartic statement yet. As for what “the light” is, there can be many interpretations, but the one Brockhampton seems to lean towards is optimism. The band, after garnering all the attention, glitz, and opulence one could ask for, experienced the dark side of fame firsthand. Ever since then, they’ve been trying to rediscover the light for themselves as they keep chasing it, but every time they approach it, the light flees from their grasp just as the roadrunner manages to successfully flee from the coyote every time.
Each member of Brockhampton has been trying to cope with their own problems such as the depression that has stricken many members of the band, their constant struggle against malicious acts such as racism and homophobia, drug addiction, and the band attempting to find a silver lining in the cursed hand of lucky cards they’ve been dealt. Joba, specifically, seems to be the focal point of this record, Abstract himself coined this as “Joba’s album”. For most of his time across Roadrunner, Joba is trying to come to terms with the loss of his own father to suicide. Stylistically, Roadrunner is an amalgamation of everything Brockhampton had to offer prior to it, a kaleidoscope of sounds, finding a fine balance between their surrealist hardcore hip-hop sound and their poppier, breezy, and more hook focused offerings that are perfect for rolling the car window down on a warm summer day. It takes the jagged aesthetic of iridescence, the euphonious, melancholic, and pop-centric tendencies of Sat III/Ginger, and the swagger of Sat I/II, and melds them all together without directly remind me of anything Brockhampton has partaken in previously, leaving it feeling like an entirely new experience. The album lures you in with the boisterous bangers that Brockhampton is known for, albeit, slightly more introspective this time around, only to lead into a much more emotionally poignant and melodically moving side relative to their most recent material.
There are many moments throughout Roadrunner, especially towards the end of the album, where you will stumble upon a verse that is so intimate and sincere it reads more like a diary entry rather than a typical rap verse, and that’s the beauty of it. It feels like being a 42-year man, looking back at an old picture of yourself, and then comparing that to your current self, only to notice the wrinkles on your arms and all the fat you’ve gained since your glory days. But rather than feeling down about yourself, you use it as a moment to reflect on your past, accept who you now are, and give yourself a warm embrace.
All in all, a Brockhampton essential. Not one of the band’s most immediately accessible, mostly due to some rough mixing that, surprisingly, works in the album’s favor, but rather one of the band’s most outstanding, focused, and staggering achievements yet. If this is just the warm-up for whatever their glorious bow-out will be later this year, then Brockhampton’s going to have one hell of a “curtains closing” moment.
FAVORITE TRACKS: BUZZCUT, CHAIN ON, BANKROLL, THE LIGHT, WINDOWS, WHEN I BALL, DON'T SHOOT UP THE PART, DEAR LORD, THE LIGHT PT. II
WORST TRACKS: COUNT ON ME