Having heard many of these artists for the first time on Saturation, the immediate standouts include the two emcees Ameer Vann and Merlyn Wood, and the singer JOBA. Vann delivers through a deep and captivating voice with a smooth flow. He has a similar sound to Daveed Diggs of Clipping, but with a slower rhythm. Merlyn comes through with the most versatility in his style. He transitions from a bombastic Jamaican accent on "Heat", to a more methodical conscious rap on "Milk", and an insane delivery on "Bump". He even provides soft vocals on the song, "Swim". JOBA substitutes for Kevin Abstract on a few of the hooks, hitting the higher registers with skill. He shines as the lead in the chorus of "Face", giving a soulful performance. He also mixes it up with punk-rock style screams on the bridge of "Heat".
"Heat" is an absurd beginning to the album. It’s a fantastical banger filled with dirt, grime, and horrors over a monstrous drum and bass line. The next track, "Gold", turns it down a notch but keeps the pace going with a smooth instrumental. Kevin Abstract’s hook on the song is best and catchiest of the album. Horn samples peak through the thick bass and gives the song extra life. BROCKHAMPTON continues to deliver hard-hitting tracks with the album’s third, "Star". The entire song is filled with funny and clever references of actors and movies.
The track "2Pac" is a short, sentimental interlude performed by Abstract and Vann, and serves as a great transition from a boisterous beginning to project’s lighter side. "Fake" is the first laid-back song of the album with lighter sounds, a strong synth, and good chorus. "Bank" follows up with one of the strongest instrumentals. Metallic, spacious drums are filled in with a repetitive vocal sample and bass, creating a heavily layered groove. Ameer Vann particularly stands out on the song. His delivery, flow, and voice are perfect, making his verses a satisfying experience every time. On "Swim", the members of BROCKHAMPTON continue to show their versatility. Rappers Merlyn Wood and Dom McLennon reach their sweeter sides by pulling off some auto-tuned crooning. In the intro, JOBA and Abstract combine together for a lovely and melodic passage. The song then breaks into a catchy hook with a short instrumental eruption. The watery guitar and soft drums meld seamlessly with the synths.
"Bump" is a curious track, initially returning to the louder sound of the album with a booming and distorted beat. Merlyn unleashes on the opening verse, before the song abruptly transitions into a somber chorus delivered by Abstract. It’s perfectly produced, naturally melding the back-and-forth between the aggressive sounds on the verses and the sad melody of the hook. "Bump" does not fit into any molds or musical preconceptions. It’s just one of the band’s many songwriting examples that separate them in the hip-hop landscape.
"Cash" once again uses a guitar as the main part of the instrumental. It creates a lo-fi, indie rock vibe to the song, especially with the addition of the backup singing and horns laced into the melody. The group also delivers another catchy chorus. "Milk" is arguably the strongest cut off Saturation, with a low-key instrumental and a fantastic chorus. BROCKHAMPTON writes a personal song about self-improvement and recognizing what kind of person you are. Merlyn dishes out his best verse of the project with his most methodical delivery. The outro by Dom is poetic and emotional. He performs a spoken-word passage that sounds like something you would hear in a Macklemore tune. Dom certainly appears to be the most introspective of the group, and features the best wordplay. All members are at their best in this song.
Despite all its praises, there are just a few problems with the album. The songs, "2Pac" and "Fake" both feature vocals that are pitched to a higher-register, similar to what Frank Ocean did on his record Blonde. Ameer is prominent on both tracks, and his voice is captivating without edits. It makes me wonder what the high pitch does for the track and to what purpose does it actually serve? It can certainly come off slightly annoying when Ameer is getting sentimental on "2pac". It is the only two times this happens on the record. This vocal editing is not exactly unique anymore, and could be removed without changing the song’s impact. The closer, "Waste", fits into place with the rest of the album, but sounds like a poorly executed, very sad rock song. The guitars are generic and the vocals sound overly whiney.
With Saturation, BROCKHAMPTON proves it's one of the most interesting hip-hop groups currently working. Every member has their own unique personality and style, giving great performances throughout. They complete what a lot of hip-hop artists fail to do – deliver consistent hooks, strong verses, and personality. The lyrical and instrumental structures in each song are varied between different bridges, hooks, and verses. They manage to avoid any feelings of repetition. The band’s writing shows maturity, focusing on themes of loneliness, relationships, being yourself, and overcoming problems of your past. This hodge-podge of artists who met on an online forum just a few years ago have come together with top-tier songwriting and a forward-thinking mindset. The chemistry between them is paralleled only by the likes of Run The Jewels. Saturation is one of the best albums 2017 has to offer so far, and is a great example of the many alternatives that exist in today's mainstream hip-hop.
Favorite Tracks: "Heat", "Gold", "Star", "Boys", "Bank", "Swim", "Bump", "Cash", "Milk", "Face"
Least Favorite Tracks: "Waste"