Album Review: "Saturation III", BROCKHAMPTON
Ahhhh, Brockhampton. It’s been nearly impossible for me to ignore this group recently, both just as a result of being a fan of hip hop and since I fell in love with the first Saturation back in June. Since then, they’ve dropped two more albums, and I want to say first and foremost that all three are solid projects. Every member here has a solid flow, delivery that rarely fails to leave an impact, and an undeniable chemistry with each other. However, I think that the first had the most solid hooks, lyrics, the most instantly memorable bangers, and every single moment felt absolutely essential to the album. It’s also the most widely accessible/likable of their releases; whether that’s important to you or not. Even so, all three made my year-end list, and are absolutely worth a listen. Ignoring this group if you’re a fan of hip hop would be a fatal mistake that I can’t let anyone make.
The only problem I think I see with the Saturation trilogy on the whole is that the flow of each album is pretty similar. They seem to touch on a lot of the same themes, the boyish personality of the group is still there, the tracks get slightly lazier and similar to each other towards the middle and end of the album (not the case in the first Saturation at all, another reason I loved it more), and a slower, more emotional and skeletal guitar-driven track or two closes the album out. However, I still think that each album has individual songs and verses that are incredible and shouldn’t be ignored, which is why releasing every one of these albums seems justified to me (despite Saturation II having the most moments that could’ve been cut.) It also helps that Saturation II and III experiment a little bit more in their sonic landscapes than the first, giving each release just enough of their own character to feel different.
So moving on to Saturation III; on the whole, I’m really liking this album. More so with every listen. Every single member of the group’s flow and delivery is still extremely good, each bringing their own style to the table but still bouncing ideas off of the others effectively. There are a number of verses here that I absolutely loved, mostly towards the end of the album. In several of the songs, the beat switches up completely midway through; sometimes the transitions feel pretty natural, sometimes they’re a little more abrupt and off-putting.
It kicks off with what I think are two flawless songs. Boogie is just a straight explosion of energy, it’s like an orgy of police sirens, horns, and drums and I’m really digging it. I also especially love Joba’s flow in this song where it sounds like he’s completely yelling his ass off. His flow in the start of Zipper also has a lot of character and adds a lot to the song. The production is equally as infectious, with its punchy horns and piano, and Kevin’s hook is contagious too; definitely a straight banger.
In a few places like Johnny, the production feels a little messy and awkward; none of the elements really compliment each other that well and it seems just a little disjointed to me. The synth leads, horns, and sporadic drumming just clash with each other and feel like they’re each trying to do their own separate thing and not working together that well. Around songs like Liquid and Stupid I feel like both the production and lyrics drop slightly in quality too. They don’t feel as essential to the album and some of the verses feel a little surface level and redundant to the things they’ve already been talking about in the past two albums. Note areas in Liquid where, instead of getting into the specifics or really elaborating on it, Ameer mentions his parents fighting, moving around a lot, Kevin mentions having no friends growing up (playing rock paper scissors by himself, and all that jazz). Neither of them really have a point and it just feels kind of lazily written. However, on songs like Hottie, I like the fact they’re not really trying to say much lyrically, but fully embrace the simplicity of the song; I’m also really loving the dreamy feel of the synths in the background in combination with the kick drum.
My only other real problem production-wise here is a few beat changes that feel sort of tacked on to the end of songs, like at the end of Alaska or Bleach. I think they’re just a little distracting and don’t add much to the delivery of the songs. This isn’t to say they aren’t well done in themselves; I think if they’d been applied to new songs or better incorporated to tie into the rest of the songs they’d have made a stronger impact.
However, Sister/Nation is a definite high point of the album. Sister takes gritty to the next level with its forceful groovy layers of synths in the background, topped with this whole layer of industrial noise and aggressive drumming that comes in and out at different points; it almost reminds me of something I’d hear on a Death Grips track or something. Around its halfway point, the beat gets a little more glitchy with wailing synths flooding the background. The lyrics delve into Joba’s experience having Dissociative Identity Disorder, which makes sense with the chaotic production.
This switches into Nation, which includes what are a few of my favorite verses of the whole album and honestly one of my favorite tracks here if not my favorite. It definitely feels more somber and the production is simpler and has a more relaxed, subdued tone, but it’s still completely gorgeous and fits the lyrics so well. The song points out the everyday struggle that black kids growing up in your average suburb or small town face because of race and Dom touches on the way he feels he’s seen in the eyes of the rest of the world. The imagery is so vivid and hard-hitting, please don’t miss it. I would quote Kevin and Ameer and Dom’s verses right now if it wouldn’t probably add a whole page to the review. Just look em up man.
While I love both parts of this song, I think it might have benefitted from being split into two. There’s so much happening in each, and when compared to songs on the album that are less impactful, it makes more sense for them to be separate since they’re very different from each other and carry their own purpose. All in all though, they really did a lot in only 6 minutes here and it’s incredible.
Stains is also without a doubt one of my favorite cuts here, the lyrics get pretty personal and really connected with me; they’re not necessarily going to blow you away, but they feel really honest and straightforward. I love Ameer’s verse about going from this life that’s centered on a relationship to learning to be completely on your own but still feeling like something’s missing from your life and not knowing why, and Dom’s verse about thinking he’d understand one day the larger meaning of all of the things he was dealing with but still has no idea.
Several moments here feel mellow in a way that’s similar to tracks like Nation, like in Bleach or Team. The first part of Team definitely reminds me of the tone of Waste from the first saturation with the stripped-back, slower guitar cut and Bearface’s boyish vocals. It definitely grew on me over time; at first I wasn’t really sure the verses from the first to second part flowed together well, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense as it’s not only the conclusion to Saturation III but the entire trilogy and putting in the politically-charged verses reinforces one of the bigger themes of what Brockhampton is really about.
So yeah, I think this album was a great way to end the Saturation trilogy. It’s similar thematically to the first two parts but has its own highlights, its own sound to appreciate. If Brockhampton could chill with the seemingly never ending solid material that’d be awesome because I’m getting overwhelmed.