Brockhampton’s fourth studio album marks a transitional period for the self-proclaimed boyband. The group went through a tumultuous summer that saw the departure of one of its key members due to sexual assault charges. The rap collective had planned to release an album sometime in the summer under the name Puppy, but there is no information as to what happened to that project. After much anticipation, the group released its first record under the label RCA. Ultimately the record is inconsistent and at times messy. However, it also features some of the best material the group has put out so far.
The weakest points of iridescence are its introductory tracks. The introductory track “New Orleans” attempts to carry on the groups’ tradition of starting albums with a loud track to make an impression on the audience but falls short. The production hits hard with heavy rattling beats similar to Travis Scott’s “Astroworld.” While the production makes an impact, it drowns out some of the verses on the opening track. Excluding Merlin Wood’s verse at the end of the track, these verses are some of the weakest throughout the project. The song ends with a seamless transition into a brief interlude called “Thug Life.” This track is much softer and offers a satisfying refrain from the group’s vocalist bearface.
“Thug Life” ends with an introspective verse from Dom McLennon, one of the group’s rappers. Some of the project’s most successful moments are when its members take a moment to examine how their newfound fame has changed their lives. Kevin Abstract delivers two of his best verses thus far on “Weight” and “Tape.” “Weight” is one of the best tracks Brockhampton has released. It opens with soft strings while Kevin raps about how fame has changed how people in his life treat him, what he misses about his old life and his sexuality. After this, multiple members rap about how fame weighs on each of them in unique ways. The production shifts to meet the mood of each verse starting with soft strings, but then it moves to a faster dance beat and recedes into the background for another more sensitive verse from McLennon. “Weight” showcases Brockhampton at its best. The chemistry between the members is obvious as jump in and out throughout the track. It keeps the listener entertained, and showcases the scope of the group’s sound and range of topics they can cover.
After “Weight,” the album really hits its stride. “District” offers much improved vocal pitching on one of the stickiest hooks of the album. The production hits hard with droning tones waning in the background throughout. Another highlight comes soon after on the song “Tape.” On this track, members rap over a sporadic drum beat which allows their vocals to shine. The track offers intimate looks at the members’ lives as they vent about fears of being used by friends or even lovers for financial gain. After “Tape,” we are hit with the album’s main single, “J’ouvert”. This song features production that demands to be blasted. The majority of the track contains a nasty droning baseline topped off with a snare that smacks. The song brings with it another sticky hook and one of the most emotionally charged verses on the project from Joba.
The album concludes with a few ballads, and these tracks are highlights on the project. “San Marcos” begins falsetto singing over arpeggios on an acoustic guitar. The song builds to autotuned vocals over the same guitar. It is a triumphant ballad that conveys the emotion of overcoming all of the obstacles the group has faced over the past year. It culminates with a verse where Joba gives an acknowledgement of dark thoughts but is resolved to overcome them. The song ends with a children’s choir repeating the refrain “I want more out of life than this.” While the lyric is a bit cheesy, the instrumental background matched with the verses leading up to this create one of the most emotional and inspirational moments of on any record of 2018.
This standout track is followed up by another highlight, “Tonya.” It starts with unaccompanied and longing jazz piano. The track one of bearface’s best vocal performances as he sings, “because I’m afraid to disappoint.” In this refrain, he captures how it feels to be an artist with a frothing fan base demanding music. The song gives a look into the pressure artists face to please their fans and their fears of disappointing those fans.
Iridescence marks a new direction for Brockhampton. It brought with it a new sound and a new era for the group. It fails to deliver the punchy production and sticky hooks of the past, but it also takes the group in a deeper, more introspective direction. While the project has some of the group’s weakest material, it also contains some of the best. Ultimately, iridescence is a mixed bag, likely as a result of the challenging times leading up to its release. The album is the least consistent in the group’s discography, but leaves fans with enough quality tracks to get them excited for the future.