Brockhampton – Saturation
What makes this rap collective so refreshing is the fact that they don’t shy away from the fact that, in terms of primary listenership, hip hop is music for adolescents. Consider “Trip”, with its chorus of “Today Imma be whoever I wanna be” and verses that include lines like “Trapped in the suburbs / We suffocatin’”. The last track, “Waste” is a clear nod to 2000s emo-pop, with vocals that recall the saccharine pathos of Dashboard Confessional. Of course, Brockhampton wouldn’t be so promising if their aspirations toward being an “all-American boy band” weren’t sullied by an ultimately endearing experimental streak: “Cash” is an alt-R&B ballad that glides by upon a single arpeggiated guitar, “Heat” is fueled by distorted bass blasts à la xxxtentacion, and “Bump”, the album’s most impressive track, flips back and forth between placid, reverb-sodden guitars and a whining, industrial beat. Overall, the album as a whole suffers from an overabundance of filler, but its highlights demonstrate that Brockhampton is capable of tight songwriting that flirts with new approaches to hip hop while also remaining rooted in pop traditions.
Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
In terms of production and flow, Tyler has grown in leaps and bounds since Wolf and Cherry Bomb – the beats, which show equal influence from lounge and video game music, feel immersive rather than pieced together, and his once stop-and-start flow has grown more nimble. Lyrically, however, there’s little of interest here – an entire track is about being bored – and I suspect that it’s due to this lack (along with the fact that two years ago Tyler was still hip-hop’s biggest homophobe) that so much attention has been given to his coming out on “Garden Shed”. On “911 / Mr. Lonely”, he complains about feeling lonely, and hypothesizes that it’s because he never had a dog, but I suspect that it has more to do with the fact that he makes obnoxious comments like “Everyone is a sheep / Me, a lone wolf”. On “November”, he claims to have “deep thoughts, deep thoughts”, and I believe him – I just wish he would share them with us.
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
The instrumentals here unfold like the petals of a paper rose, revealing the delights of each individual sound on offer, from the clattering, skipping drums on the SOPHIE-produced “Yeah Right” to the metal-on-metal squeal of “SAMO”. It’s all the more of a pity then that Staples has so little to say, with his lyricism fixated on the same three tired themes: being rich but eschewing the idea of material wealth as self-worth, being successful but still suffering from depression, and wanting commitment but being foiled by the fact that all women are hoes. It’s the sort of record that makes you wish you could forget your knowledge of the English language so as to better appreciate the auditory pyrotechnics on display free of distractions. Unfortunately, part of the problem is Staple’s stalwart, fastidiously measured flow, which ends up feeling like an effort at keeping sure footing as he attempts to wrangle unruly beats. While he succeeds on the tamer tracks (“Party People,” “BagBak”), we’re ultimately left with a project that feels underdeveloped despite resting on a splendid set of blueprints.