(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Saturation (2017), 6/10
Saturation II (2017), 7/10
Saturation III (2017), 6/10
Iridescence (2018), 7.5/10
Ginger (2019), 5/10
Roadrunner - New Light New Machine (2021), 6.5/10
The Family (2022), 4.5/10

Texas' hip-hop group AliveSinceForever, later renamed Brockhampton and led by Kevin Abstract (Clifford Simpson), debuted with a trilogy of more or less related albums. Saturation I (2017), mostly produced by Romil Hemnani and Q3 (Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merley), established them as the Texas version of the Odd Future collective (Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, etc) but focused on teenage heartbreak (the members were all teenagers) with songs such as the bluesy ballad Waste, the depressed Fake and Milk and the melancholy soul-rap Face next to bombastic and more conventional numbers like Star and Bump. The production is mostly raw but the atmospheric and mutating Gold and the quasi-psychedelic Swim demonstrate good aural-choreographic skills.

The frenzied Saturation II (2017), perhaps their artistic peak, mostly produced by Romil Hemnani, opens with the noir, hypnotic and Middle-eastern ambience of Gummy and ends with the languid Prince-esque soul-rock ballad Summer. In between they indulged in the witty vocal creativity of songs like Tokyo and Jello and in playful and bombastic numbers like Sunny and especially Queer (that ends as a gentle soul lament). The biggest improvement is in the sound department with the acrobatic arrangements of the Indian-tinged Sweet (the standout), the disorienting and cinematic electronica of Junky, and the anemic and nostalgic synths of Swamp.

The poppier Saturation III (2017), produced by Hemnani and Q3, is a confused work that boasts the jazzy and polyrhythmic Johnny, the noisy and feverish Boogie, and especially the mournful psychedelic dirge Team but wastes the group's talent in the mellow ballad Bleach and in the musichall skits Stupid and Zipper.

The more experimental Iridescence (2018), mostly produced by Hemnani and Russell "Joba" Boring, went far beyond hip-hop music. The album's highlights are narratives that are increasingly complex, even symphonic, like Weight. The psychotic and hyper-syncopated District and the polyphonic and theatrical Vivid up the ante of what rapping means. Meanwhile, the chaotic and abrasive J'Ouvert and the demented techno dance Honey explore productions in wildly different directions. At the end of the album they enter "singer-songwriter mode" with the bedroom-pop confession of San Marcos (ending with a rousing singalong), the stark piano-based elegy Tonya, and the anthemic collage of Fabric.

That album had a counterpart in the more user-friendly Ginger (2019), containing Boy Bye and little else of interest.

Meanwhile, Kevin Abstract had launched a parallel career in mainstream pop (with little hip-hop) on albums such as MTV1987 (2014), a concept about his own turbulent teenagehood, American Boyfriend - A Suburban Love Story (2016) and Arizona Baby (2019).

Roadrunner - New Light New Machine (2021), recorded by 13 members and produced by a real collective, is a compromise between their experimental ambitions and the accessible rap-pop of the previous album. Hence the softly melodic refrain of Count On Me (featuring A$AP Rocky), the hummed melody over atonal guitar strumming of The Light Part II, the a-cappella and gospel-ish Dear Lord, the thumping boom-bap rap with operatic choir of Don't Shoot Up The Party, and especially What's the Occasion, which couples rock guitar with a New Kids on the Block-ian refrain. The propulsive and energetic Buzzcut (featuring Danny Brown), the playful and theatrical Windows (with a deluge of samples and features) and The Light, that throws in the organ and guitar of prog-soul, continue to experiment.

The 17-song farewell album The Family (2022), a concept about the story of the boy-band, is almost a solo by Kevin Abstract as the band has disintegrated. TM (2022) collects leftovers.

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )