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Album review: ‘Saturation III’

(Question Everything Inc. and Empire Distribution)

"Saturation III"


Question Everything Inc. and Empire Distribution

Released Dec. 15

By Michael Zshornack

Dec. 16, 2017 3:36 p.m.

2017 has been saturated with Brockhampton’s innovative and experimental music.

The hip-hop collective debuted two albums earlier this summer, but with the release of “Saturation III” on Friday, the final album in its “Saturation” trilogy, it proved it was not yet done with 2017.

Brockhampton’s first two full-length albums, “Saturation” and “Saturation II,” managed to successfully layer each of its lyricists’ talents over experimental hip-hop beats. Brockhampton garnered critical acclaim in the music industry with the two albums, which were released less than three months apart, but raised the question of how it could sustain its success for the rest of its career.

The answer to that question, “Saturation III,” reminds listeners of why Brockhampton was so successful in the first place. “Saturation III” is very much a successor to the first two albums in the trilogy, featuring many of the same experimental flows and beats that made Brockhampton so popular. But the new release also showcases a stylistic evolution, with more emotionally driven ballads and charged rhythms that highlight the group’s versatile talents.

The album immediately brings the listener back into the ebbs and flows of Brockhampton with its first track “Boogie.” The loud beat, underscored by blaring horns and sirens, is one of the group’s most experimental ones yet, but the back-to-back verses from members Joba, Merlyn Wood and Dom McLennon make “Boogie” the strongest opener to any Brockhampton album to date. Joba’s spastic style, Wood’s jarring delivery and McLennon’s smooth flow all blend perfectly together on top of the song’s packed beat, and they only leave listeners wanting more from the rest of the album.

The album’s third track, “Johnny,” features some of the group’s most introspective raps as each lyricist details his own intimate and dark thoughts. Kevin Abstract steals the spotlight in the track as he raps about the sacrifices he made for his art, such as the friendships he has lost. But the most touching part of his verse briefly touches on the relationship he lost with his mother as a result of her not accepting his sexuality.

Brockhampton’s in-house producers, Q3 and Romil Hemnani, continued to create some of the most experimental beats in hip-hop throughout the album. Most notably, “Alaska” features a looping progression of chords played on an electric organ that builds anticipation through the song. “Sister/Nation” also starts out with an edgy and pounding bass line but then unexpectedly switches beats into a synth-backed track, almost reminiscent of the work of film score composer Hans Zimmer.

But while the album churns out many fast and bumping hip-hop beats, it really shines on slower tracks that mix in simpler instrumentals. “Bleach” features a slow chorus sung by Ryan Beatty on top of a simple and hauntingly distorted piano beat that diverges from the chaotic beats that came earlier on the album. Despite the contrast, “Bleach” allows each member to individually shine as he raps about his own struggles with anxiety.

The album’s final track, “Team,” starts off with a slow guitar-filled ballad. Bearface croons about a lost love and the need to move on from the pains of the past. The hurt in his voice comes out perfectly when audible breaths bring a sense of desperation to the tune. Later in the track, he begins singing in a powerful and reverberating falsetto telling his old love to move on in a moment that makes a fitting end to the album.

“Saturation III” concludes what the first two albums in the trilogy set out to do in challenging the foundations of hip-hop. On its latest release, Brockhampton continued implementing experimental beats and calling out the unaccepting nature of the hip-hop community in the albums’ lyrics, features which filled the first two. But the new album stands out against its predecessors with its own blend of fast- and slow-paced songs and hard-hitting verses. “Saturation III” would be a hit on its own, but what is truly outstanding is that this album is the group’s third of the year.

Brockhampton’s busy year seems almost unreal considering it has released over 45 innovative songs over the span of six months. But despite the “Saturation” era now being over, Brockhampton fans can still rest easy knowing that the self-proclaimed boy band has announced another album set to be released in 2018. Hopefully, it’s as refreshing as the group’s last three albums.

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Michael Zshornack
Zshornack is the 2018-2019 digital managing editor. He was previously the Photo editor, assistant Photo editor and a Photo contributor. He is a fourth-year math student at UCLA and likes photographing sports games and concerts.
Zshornack is the 2018-2019 digital managing editor. He was previously the Photo editor, assistant Photo editor and a Photo contributor. He is a fourth-year math student at UCLA and likes photographing sports games and concerts.
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