After a short hiatus and solo ventures, the restless creative boy group returns with an album that is short on hits but sees them move towards a new line that represents their greatness without quite getting there.
The Texas born BROCKHAMPTON boys are seeking to rewrite the hip hop genre with their fifth studio album GINGER. After four quick and successful albums, and forcing the release of their best rapper, Ameer Vann after sexual misconduct accusations, the group, for once, experienced severe burnout and anxiety which lead to their short yet necessary hiatus. Kevin Abstract released a solo effort, plenty more worked on their own individual music, a $15 million deal with RCA allowed them to move out of their communal home in North Hollywood and disperse throughout greater Los Angeles; they finally came together at the Creative House (the central home studio) and what came of those sessions is the disjointed yet entertaining GINGER, an album about self-fulfillment.
Many of the songs feel cramped, disorganized an inefficient for a BROCKHAMPTON album yet it capitalizes on the sounds, techniques and artistic ventures that made them so successful and popular in the first place. Oddly, their fifth studio album was born out of a creative and therapeutic relationship with Shia LaBeouf, who leads weekly group therapy sessions at Abstract’s place. At the height of a creative and return-to-form for the prolific actor/performance artist/fledgling rapper (a film he wrote, stared and produced in about his own personal life Honey Boy), it seems the actor has contributed a huge influence about self-fulfillment, sobriety, and self-reflection seeing as GINGER is NOT a feel-good summer album or boasts potential hits like their previous efforts. In fact the album is murky and often lovelorn – most verses you find on the record are about being neglected, abandoned or lack of center focus in a relationships. It is not as pessimistic, jittery and moody as their previous effort, the chart-topping iridescence but it is still cheerless.
The cheerlessness isn’t the problem for me but the writing gets bogged down by the narrow perspective presented. At the essence of the Boy band is that BROCKHAMPTON is a group of misfits explaining all the different ways that they do not fit in – that’s at least part of the appeal. They speak to many and all times of brands of loneliness. For a fifth studio album, I’d expect them to at least begin to have an understanding of what makes them wholesome and what they have in common. They’re unwillingness to find some semblance of comfort feels like a huge source of their dysfunction as a group. They feel like they’re constantly trying to piece together broken personal histories amid such huge and massive success.
The BROCKHAMPTON production team keep the crew laced with weird and ear-bending beats that shift, split, and branch out to accommodate the myriad of performing styles and genres. In the early parts of the record, things all seem to click into place – the trifecta at the outset: “No Halo,” “Sugar,” and “Boy Bye” make it seem like the band has unlocked their full potential. As you listen to the remainder of the album, things seem to become undone and songs splinter into pieces.
A big issue in being in such a huge boy band is to not have the individual artists overpower the talents and skills of another artist. The BROCKHAMPTON boys tend to not do that, luckily, and just about each one of them in the rap collective delivers a standout performance at some point and many of the members are showing increased growth in voice and artistry. I believe the biggest issue that BROCKHAMPTON is facing is that for a boy group their size, they are drifting and growing apart, not personally but musically which is creating a lack of holism overall in their sound and style. They call themselves a boy band, but boy bands are usually… in sync.
Essential Track(s): “No Halo,” “Heaven Belongs To You,” “I Been Born Again”
Released: August 23, 2019.
Genre(s): Hip hop.
Label: Question Everything, RCA.
Featured Artist(s): N/A.
Tour: "Heaven Belongs To You Tour" [2019-2020], Various Festival Dates including Day N Vegas (Las Vegas), Camp Flog Gnaw 2019 (LA), FOMO (Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne Editions, Australia), Trusts Outdoor (Auckland, New Zealand) (as of publishing)
Vinyl Edition: Yes - through various outlets (as of publishing).