by David Crone

BROCKHAMPTON’S SATURATION remains one of this year’s best releases. Amidst a somewhat stagnant rap landscape, the group immediately leapt to the forefront of creativity, combining fantastic talent with unique song structures, earworm hooks and a lively blend of genres. More than anything else, BROCKHAMPTON was defined by its personality.

Following up such a success was always going to be a challenge. Capturing the same charm, character and sound is a difficult enough task, without considering the 3-month deadline the group set for the album’s sequel. However, it did not take long for SATURATION II’s singles to convince me that such a task was indeed possible, and very likely.

Each single retained the same character as the first album, and demonstrated the key aspects of the group’s success. GUMMY’s swift changes of pace captured the group’s eclectic production, transforming from a gorgeous orchestral flourish to a bouncy rap beat, then ending with a chaotic, aggressive finale. The second single, SWAMP, highlighted the group’s vocal variation, combining JOBA’s sing-song rapping, Matt’s laid-back vocals, Kevin’s harmonic hooks and Merlyn’s eclectic shouts to great effect.

JUNKY, the third single, provided a sample of the group’s unconventional structure, and a demonstration of each member’s rapping talent – each verse was powerful, with Kevin, Ameer, Merlyn and Matt delivering a 4-minute verbal assault. Finally, SWEET provided the ‘personality cut’, allowing each member’s personality to shine through a series of excellent verses.

Much like in the first SATURATION, the singles set the album up for a creative and wholly unique work. I am pleased to say that’s the case. SATURATION II is bursting with colourful and character-filled songs, living up to its predecessor’s hype. The mix of genres is also present: songs such as SUMMER and GAMBA dabble in slower, melodic RnB, whilst TOKYO flips between Justin Timberlake and Kamasi Washington at a whim. Songs such as SUNNY remain outside genre altogether, blending Howlin’ Wolf-inspired shouts with tinkling xylophones and The Neighbourhood-style tropical guitars.

One aspect of BROCKHAMPTON that has improved the most is their lyricism. As an ‘All-American Boyband’, personality is an essential aspect of their success, perhaps giving the group leeway regarding lyricism on their first effort. On their second album, however, there is far more pressure to say something. Luckily for the group, this pressure is met with excellent diversity from every member. Dom McLennon and Kevin Abstract remain consistently fantastic, with Kevin’s hooks being even catchier than before and Dom’s verses consistently taking over tracks with powerful lyrics and phenomenal delivery. But this is not to say that this pair rise above the group: BROCKHAMPTON’S members are equally talented, and many have made excellent efforts to diversify on SATURATION II.

Firstly, Merlyn’s lyrics have improved, switching from mainly brag-rap to incorporating much of his African heritage and frequently commenting on his background. Matt Champion has made impressive strides, maintaining his slick, laid-back delivery, but switching between different flows (QUEER, SWEET) and delivering a powerful critical verse at the end of JUNKY. Ameer Vann’s delivery remains unchanged, but his subject matter hits harder than before –  on FIGHT he delivers hard-hitting commentary, rapping “I was born with a target, and it stuck to my skin / and I learned in social studies I was one of them men / who were locked in the chains, but not locked in the pen.” Even JOBA has taken steps to vary his content, delivering excellent rap verses on both SWAMP and SWEET alongside his outstanding singing contributions.

Despite SATURATION II’s originality, its influences are perhaps more visible than its predecessor’s. For example, QUEER’S stuttered start is almost a direct copy of ScHoolboy Q’s Los Awesome, which features a similar pad-heavy introduction. However, much of the album’s familiarity derives from its relation to the original work. TEETH and JESUS mirror the first’s 2PAC, SWAMP and SWEET mirror GOLD, and TOKYO mirrors the original’s FAKE. SATURATON II ends in a similar manner too, the soulful track SUMMER serving a near-identical role to SATURATION’s WASTE. These parallels don’t detract from the quality of the album overall, but do raise questions as to where the group can go next.

SATURATION II is another thoroughly unique record. BROCKHAMPTON’s blend of genres, voices and talents has hit yet another gold mine, producing an impressive project that manages to hold up to its predecessor, if falling short at stages. BROCKHAMPTON’S second album is filled with musical excellence, originality and moments of awe-inspiring diversity, presenting itself as another gem in the boyband’s discography.