You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Album Review: Brockhampton’s ‘Ginger’

The paradigm-shifting hip-hop collective offers their tightest album yet.

It is a testament to the sheer creative force and prolific output of their last two breakout years that, though the members are only in their early 20s, Brockhampton has settled into a kind of artistic maturity on their new record, “Ginger.” In 2017, Brockhampton burst into the hip-hop consciousness offering a bold paradigm shift for its generation of rap — they were a racially diverse, partly queer clan of a dozen or so teens and barely 20-somethings, formed via the internet. They flexed charismatically, wallowed in their youth, and styled themselves as the new “All-American boy band.”

Led by solo artist Kevin Abstract, they all moved into a house in South Central Los Angeles, doused themselves in blue paint, and shot DIY music videos and short films. Their youthful, wild abandon came across impressively well.

In the span of seven months, they dropped three albums that made up the “Saturation” trilogy, a scatterbrained mosh pit of creative ideas that, like the group’s members, featured a controlled chaos of idiosyncratic voices and sounds that came together into a daring, consistently enticing whole. In its rage, joy, and zany bravado, the triptych presented a stunningly polished vision of inventive, moody youth. On last summer’s “Iridescence,” they officially entered the mainstream with a No. 1 album that was more sonically focused, but its melancholy and abrasive industrial overlay lost some of the whimsy and fun of their preceding trilogy.

With “Ginger,” their fifth record in just over two years, they’ve presented their tightest and potentially most memorable album yet. Across twelve tracks, the rap collective is noticeably more controlled and concise. Not coincidentally, the group’s two wild card voices, Joba and Merlyn Wood, typically providing the group with surges of rage or playfully wild energy, have largely quieted their typically outlandish voices and yelping bars. The undercurrent of anxiety — a hallmark of the group’s identity — is still present but holds new weight here, more mature and weary, and less a mark of their youth.

A strong opening stretch sets this tone with two tracks that are anchored, rather beautifully, by an acoustic guitar. “I don’t know where I’m going,” a voice echoes in the album’s opening seconds on “No Halo,” before Matt Champion, Wood, and Joba each offer superbly reflective verses. A feature from indie rock newcomer Deb Never, along with vocals from Bearface, tie the track together into something that feels lightly reminiscent of early Justin Timberlake (see: “What Goes Around Comes Around”). Following that is “Sugar,” a sweet love song that is possibly the album’s most immediately infectious track, and one of the group’s best ever pop songs. This opening pair, along with other poppy standouts — the titular track “Ginger” and “Love Me For Life” — presents a nice return to form for a group that has consistently crafted earworm hooks.

On “Boy Bye,” the group returns to purer hip-hop, and also re-introduces a sense of the kooky, playfully eerie beats that the group has often played with. “If You Pray Right,” for instance, is backed by cartoonish trumpets and unsettling synths. The bars throughout “Ginger” are solid — rising UK rapper Slowthai even makes a middling appearance on “Heaven Belongs to You” — and each voice holds its own valuable, distinct place, although Champion consistently shines the brightest with his effortlessly smooth verses.

The songs here are far less busy, for better or worse. The group’s manic energy has been toned down, and they’ve left less room for unpredictable leaps – which, on their previous works, could be either rewarding or excessive. But mostly, the extra space allows the meaningful moments to stand out more.

The discordant metallic feeling of “Iridescence” crowded an appropriately experimental, searching (and ultimately less satisfying) record — teenage angst was suddenly colliding with real life: burgeoning fame: burgeoning fame, a big record deal, and most publicly, the ousting of one of their core voices, Ameer Vann, who had been accused of sexual misconduct. (Other disputes with Ameer soon surfaced across cryptic online airings.) But on “Ginger,” when emotional insights appear, they land more acutely. Most notably on “Dearly Departed” a gorgeously stirring, hazy rock track, on which Dom McLennon, in perhaps the album’s most memorable verse, dedicates a scathing message presumably to Vann: “That’s just where you stand / That’s just who you are / That’s your cross to bear / You could talk to God / I don’t want to hear. / Motherf—r!”

Mcklennon’s verse ends with audio of him seemingly tossing a mic and shoving his way out of the room. It’s this kind of deeper vulnerability, now more palpable and less abstractly self-pitying (a drunken visit to a church on a strong Joba verse on “No Halo” has a similar effect), that makes “Ginger” feel like the strongest proof yet of the separate place the young collective is carving in hip-hop.

On the album’s spare, piano-laden closer, “Victor Roberts,” an extended verse from a mysterious new voice, Victor Roberts II, detailing a frightening childhood episode is followed by a gorgeous chorus: “Thank God for my b—s still sticking with me / Thank God when I talk I know you listen to me / Thank God that I’m built for the distance.” The ending feels like a cousin to a passage in “San Marcos,” from their last album, when a teenage choir sways and sings, “I want more out of life than this.” As wide-eyed as that song may have been, it was heartfelt and meaningful. And the closing moment here is, too. But it also feels richer, realer, and reaching something newly sublime.

RCA Records

Popular on Variety

Album Review: Brockhampton's 'Ginger'

More Music

  • Led-Zeppelin-1971

    'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Case Argued at 9th Circuit

    The attorney who claims that Led Zeppelin ripped off the acoustic guitar opening in “Stairway to Heaven” faced tough questioning on Monday before an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Francis Malofiy argued the case on behalf Michael Skidmore, a journalist who represents the estate of the late Spirit frontman Randy Wolfe. [...]

  • Andre Previn Dead

    Emmys' In Memoriam Shows Photo of Living Composer Instead of Andre Previn

    Any “In Memoriam” segment on an awards show results in immediate viewer furor over which recently deceased figures got left out. In the case of Sunday’s Emmy Awards, it was more about who got included: the very much still-with-us composer Leonard Slatkin — or at least his photographic representation, as he was misidentified as Andre [...]

  • Dawes Looks Back on 10 Years

    Taylor Goldsmith Reflects on 10 Years of Dawes as Band Heads Back to 'North Hills'

    Dawes is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the band’s debut with a deluxe vinyl re-release of their first album, “North Hills.” Faced with that milestone, fans might think: only 10 years? With Taylor Goldsmith clocking in as one of rock’s most prolific as well as just simply best songwriters, Dawes has managed to produce an impressive [...]

  • Latin Recording Academy Names Manuel Abud

    Latin Recording Academy Names Manuel Abud COO

    As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, the Latin Recording Academy today announced several key changes to its leadership team. Former Azteca America president/CEO Manuel Abud has been named the organization’s chief operating officer, while 19-year Latin Grammy vet Luis Dousdebes takes on the new position of Chief Awards, Membership and Preservation Officer. Also, Aida Scorza, who has worked [...]

  • Sturgill Simpson Grammys perfromance

    Sturgill Simpson Announces Club Tour to Benefit Special Forces Foundation

    Grammy winning singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson has announced plans for a special small-venue tour to benefit the Special Forces Foundation, kicking off at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA, on September 29.  The limited run of dates comes on the heels of the simultaneous release of his album and Netflix anime film of the same name, [...]

  • HalseyDKNY 30th birthday party, Arrivals, Spring

    Watch Halsey’s Stunning Performance of ‘Time After Time’ at the 2019 Emmy Awards

    As part of Sunday night’s In Memoriam tribute at the 2019 Emmy Awards, Halsey performed a version of Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 classic “Time After Time,” over a montage of television stars who died over the past year. Introduced by actress Regina King, the singer performed accompanied only by a pianist and honored Katherine Helmond, Tim [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content