Diagnosis: Alive & Stable😴
Fav Tracks: Bankroll, The Light, Windows, What’s The Occasion, Don’t Shoot Up The Party, Dear Lord, The Light PT. II
Least Fav: Chain On, I’ll Take You On
Here we go. Ok, I’m going to start out by saying the new Brockhampton album ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE is a tough one to judge. The hip-hop/ R&B boy band has decided to remove some of their more pop sounds with this record. We see one of the band members, Joba, now more at the forefront then ever and as always Brockhampton finds new ways to create/utilize their high quality production.
Immediately, the intro track “Buzzcut” grabs our attention with the siren like beat that goes crazy along with a, Danny Brown, feature that continues to add to the overall wackiness here. There is a floaty outro that starts to set some kind of tone for the album and transitions us into our next track “Chain On”.
“Chain On” features a looped beat that plays pretty much nonstop across the song. In all honestly while I love me some, JPEGMAFIA, I feel this track really kind of falls flat besides the production. There’s a few clever one liners here but, I was expecting more out of this pairing between Peggy and Brockhampton.
Brockhampton obviously knows how to create a cohesive project and this shows once again when the instrumental on “Count On Me” kind of plays nicely off of “Chain On”. The ASAP Rocky feature here is super nice and Rocky’s flow is just so Rocky in the best way possible. This is probably one of the more pop sounding tracks on this record and it’s interesting to note that they brought in Shawn Mendes to assist with vocals on the chorus. Without ASAP though this track would’ve been a little boring.
Another ASAP Rocky feature follows suite on “Bankroll” with the addition of ASAP Ferg. This is a braggadocios track where the boys get a chance to flex and I love the reverb on Rocky’s ad libs that adds in a trippy element. Also, I can’t overlook Ferg’s verse that he puts down where he talks about IG smut. It’s kind of great.
By listening to the first four songs, it’s hard for the listener to get a sense of direction to where this album is headed. Is it going to be all bangers? Is it going to get emotional? We don’t really know until the track “The Light” that really sets the tone for how this album should play out. The production here has a rock instrumental and, Joba, telling the story of the death of his father. There’s some really tough imagery that Joba is able to portray such as in the lines
Of a bloody backdrop, skull fragments in the ceilin’
Felt your presence in the room, heard my mother squealin’
Even Kevin comes up with a verse about his struggles with family and in the music industry. This track has anger, frustration, and down right sorrow all wrapped up in it.
The production on the next track “Windows” is top tier. It’s like an eerie Dr. Dre beat that has different instrumentals come and go in the background such as a saxophone and acoustic guitar. This is just one of the beats that feels so meticulously thought out and the listener is surely rewarded plus we get to see a lot of the band members participating and coming together as a whole. I’m just going to say it… Merlone came through with the best verse though.
A little over halfway through the record we get the track “I’ll Take You On”. I couldn’t help this song reminding me of the running man challenge “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ’s. Charlie Wilson is featured here but, my favorite moment is on Joba’s refrain where he sings
Open up your heart and I’ll give in to you/ Until you recognize that I’m into you
“Old News” is an alternative R&B track that has a catchy chorus and the boys all chime in here give different perspectives about relationships not working out.
Maybe, I’m crazy for this comparison but, the hook on the next song “What’s The Occasion” reminded me of the ending of Sufjan Steven’s song “Decatur, or, round of applause for stepmother!”. Either way, I did enjoy this track with its west coast hip-hop production and the ending of this track is so grand it really encapsulates the moment.
“When I Ball” has a piano instrumental in the background pulling together a mood here where band members essentially write a love letter to their family. Essentially, it’s a cute sweet moment that has earned a place on this album.
Kevin Abstract might of delivered some of his best verses on the track “Don’t Shoot Up the Party”. This is another west coast inspired hip-hop track with a hook that has Kevin chanting in a crowd like fashion. Kev dives into a bunch of different topics such as gun violence, racism, and homophobia.
The most peaceful moment on ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE comes with the second to last song “Dear Lord”. Basically, it’s Joba singing a capella to the point where you can hear him pretty much swallow. His voice really shines here and it’s a beautiful/simple gospel song that feels so elevated and holy. A powerful moment to begin the closing of this album.
Then to wrap it all up we get “The Light Pt. II”. It’s a ceremonial ending with harmonized vocals playing throughout. The hook has, Joba, pleading that this person doesn’t take their life. The verses here hold a lot of weight with Kev talking about how his relationship with his mother is back on good terms and, Joba, once again reflecting on where his thoughts are now after his father’s suicide.
So why is this such a hard album to rate? While the production is A1 and the band definitely dives into important topics, there is a slight lack of cohesion of the overall message. The tracks to start the album don’t really flow with the overall theme and that makes the idea a little murky. I think Brockhamptons a band that always wants to make a statement and that statement isn’t completely evident on ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE. There’s definitely a great album in here I just can’t tell if some of the ideas are flushed out enough to last with an audience that isn’t a hard Brockhampton fan already.