Essential New Music: Brockhampton’s “Saturation III”

Hip-hop acts—let alone ones with boy-band underpinnings—rarely showcase the sheer chemistry that Brockhampton has managed with its Saturation trilogy. And juggling the various personalities and competing organic and factory-made pop/rap aspirations of a 14-member posse shouldn’t amount to something as cohesive and satisfying as Saturation III. As persistent beat changes keep the listener on notice, hooks form a memorable equilibrium of carefully crafted complexity on tracks like “Zipper,” “Stupid” and “Johnny.” The Los Angeles outfit forwards the themes prominent on the previous two Saturation entries. The lyrics are personal and sometimes random, but they often carry surprising weight. “Could’ve got a job at McDonald’s, but I like curly fries,” Kevin Abstract raps on “Johnny.” “That’s a metaphor for my life, and I like taller guys.” A big reason why Saturation III holds together so well is the otherworldly production of Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merley. On “Sister/Nation,” arguably the album’s most memorable moment, futuristic instrumentation effortlessly transitions into borderline Pink Floyd-like prog rock, while “Johnny” is propelled by a stylish beat flip. Elsewhere, Houston-born rapper Ameer Vann’s aggressive flows provide a charismatic edge to “Boogie,” “Stupid” and “Alaska.” A well-honed celebration of experimentation and novelty, Saturation III dually embodies steady growth and unrealized potential. Throughout, Brockhampton finds comfort in the awkward and acceptance in rejection, overarching themes that carry over from track to track, member to member, regardless of the topic. Saturation III is for all of us—and especially those who don’t want to be like the rest.

—Fran Miller