Hip Hop collective and internet sensation Brockhampton was formed in 2015, and since then they’ve endeavored to make themselves known for the sheer quantity of music (and music videos) they can release in a short time. They released their 40-minute debut mixtape All-American Trash in March 2016; a little over a year later they announced their debut album Saturation—clocking in at 50 minutes—and that it would be part of a three-part series of albums all to be released before the end of the year. Saturation II continues the trilogy with 48 more minutes of music mostly written in the two months since the release of Saturation. At this rate, Brockhampton is going to release over three hours of music in about a year and a half. But of course anybody can release music; anybody can release a lot of it—what’s surprised virtually everyone is Brockhampton’s inexplicable and unprecedented ability to release a lot of really good music. Saturation received near-universally positive reviews and secured a broader diehard fan base. It jumps between several different styles of Hip Hop production effortlessly and circles through its many rapping characters without losing continuity and without showing any seams in the universe into which it invites the listener. Saturation II continues this trend and succeeds in redirecting the Brockhampton sound without losing any of their quality.
That “redirection” deserves a little explanation: firstly, Saturation II indulges more deeply than Saturation in melodic Hip Hop and R&B balladry. Songs like “Queer,” “Swamp,” “Jesus,” “Gamba,” “Sunny,” and “Summer” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Frank Ocean album, but the rich textural production keeps Brockhampton tracks thoroughly out of the realm of minimalism. Those songs comprise about half the album—the other half mostly consists of relatively moody, and at times, spooky, hard rap. Posse cut “Gummy” opens the album with rappers trading verse over a plucked-sounding sitar-like synth playing in an Arabian mode. Other Gangsta-Rap throwback synths and a wah-guitar shuffle with each subsequent verse. A glitching vocal sample and pitch-shifted rapping enters at the chorus. This exemplifies the album’s second mood.
Though I classified “Queer” as belonging to the former category of song, its first minute has some of the hardest music on the whole album—it kind of performs the collision of the album’s two sounds. The entrance of a harpsichord synth at the one-minute mark signals the song’s transition into a sing-along R&B ballad. The album’s later tracks explore different instrumentations to take this balladry to the next level. “Sunny” uses a bending guitar loop à la the solo in Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”. Bells and square synths add to the song’s washed out, too-much-sun feeling. The closer “Summer” starts as a piano dirge and ode to an ending summer—until 70’s-sounding guitar enters and the song finishes as a classic rock serenade.
Lyrically, Saturation II—like almost all of Brockhampton’s music—is most interesting in its discussions of homosexuality. Kevin Abstract, the collective’s kind-of frontman (and the member of Brockhampton with the most successful solo career) almost exclusively raps about being gay—hence the stilted but accurate couplet on “Junky”: “ ‘Why you always rap about being gay?’ / Cause not enough niggas rap and be gay.” That line exemplifies the album’s general preference for prosaic substance over pretty rhyming—Abstract’s verse on that track makes up for what it lacks in poetry by delivering unique and important content. Other poignant verses include Ameer Vann’s on “Fight,” on which he raps about his childhood experiences with racism, drug dealing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and how the American prison industrial complex exists as a modern-day legalization of slavery. Vann’s verse on “Junky” also stands out as a frightening account of “paranoia and drug addiction.” Its repeated “I”-statements get poetically boring, but like Abstract’s writing, the substance in Vann’s testament gives it a momentous power that builds with the track.
On the whole, Saturation II evidences Brockhampton’s knack for making consistently interesting and forwarding-thinking Hip Hop. It’s a dense album that rewards multiple listens—but every time I revisit it, it continues to impress me with its individually undiminishing energy, an energy that carries through all their music and their young, wild-eyed prolificacy. Brockhampton is a true “boy band”—they’re all in their early twenties recklessly producing as much music as they possibly can while they still have the spark and inspiration of young adulthood—here’s hoping their future output doesn’t lose that spark.