The 13-member hip-hop collective’s latest release is sensitive and retrospective, focusing on melody and production that starkly contrasts against the rest of their discography.
The album, which was released on April 9, has many features including A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, JPEGMAFIA, Baird, SoGone SoFlexy, Danny Brown and Charlie Wilson. Each artist’s signature is different from the next, which contributes additional layers to their already abstract sound, demonstrating BROCKHAMPTON’s fearlessness in exploring new territories.
While their previous albums were loud, incoherent and lacked discipline or structure, BROCKHAMPTON experiments with different genres on "ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE," smoothly transitioning between styles with more melodic beats and compelling confessionals that allow for a more cohesive and entrancing body of work than any other they've ever created.
The album's success emanates from the collective’s newfound ability to synthesize their trademarked infectious energy with emotional vulnerability to deliver an album that's more subtle, yet lyrically intense.
Each member embraces their strengths, putting forth 13 unique sounds without compromising the integrity of the album’s cohesion. For once, the collective actually binds into a synchronized unit, and they sound their best for it.
The collective’s newfound discipline transcends beyond their sound and into their lyrics in the form of captivating storytelling. Their signature confessionals detailing personal traumas that were once tumultuous emotional reactions now transform listeners into omniscient beings, transporting them into some of the most intimate, dark moments of the musicians’ lives as if they’re watching their traumas unfold as bystanders.
Perhaps the album's most poignant moment exists on “THE LIGHT,” where the lyrics are as painfully revealing as their delivery is resonant. On this guitar-driven track, BROCKHAMPTON’s JOBA hauntingly describes his father’s recent suicide and the implications it had on his mental health and self-perception while reflecting on the state of the world.
His powerfully evocative lyrics such as “Think I always will be haunted by the image/ Of a bloody backdrop, skull fragments in the ceilin'/ Felt your presence in the room, heard my mother squealin'” and “When I look at myself, I see a broken man/ Remnants of my pops, put the Glock to his head,” are tragically beautiful, submerging listeners into the depths of his grief.
BROCKHAMPTON’s lead member, Kevin Abstract, takes over on the second verse of “THE LIGHT” over a distorted guitar loop that adds an element of rage to the track as he reflects on religion, sexuality, mental health and his complicated relationship with his mother. He alludes to being saved by his faith in a moment of suicidal desires: “Thank God I made it, thank God I seen God last summer/I was standing on the bridge.”
Abstract also refers to his fragile relationship with his mother and his insecurities surrounding his sexuality: “I still struggle with tellin' my mom who I'm in love with.”
Another standout track is “I’LL TAKE YOU ON,” featuring Charlie Wilson. With a beat reminiscent of 2000s rhythm and blues, this track is a more upbeat and groovy love song that provides a breath of fresh air amid the soul-stirring content that encompasses the majority of the album.
The entire album is skillfully crafted with 13 riveting tracks that would surely stand out if placed on any one of BROCKHAMPTON’s previous albums. “COUNT ON ME,” “BANKROLL,” featuring A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY” and “WHEN I BALL” are some of the project's most masterful tracks.
The album concludes beautifully with “THE LIGHT PT. II,” a chilling continuation of JOBA and Abstract’s previous ballad that leaves the listeners lingering in its final seconds as JOBA whispers over a heavenly choral production, “The light is worth the wait/I promise, wait/Why did you do it?/The light is worth the wait/I promise, wait/Screaming please don't do it.”
Overall, BROCKHAMPTON’s "ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE" is a beautifully produced work of art that encapsulates the collective’s personal and artistic growth as they display the most vulnerable aspects of their consciousness and intimate experiences, leaving listeners begging for more.
Although the album is seemingly a turning point in the collective’s discography that generates anticipation for the future of their music, Abstract announced on Twitter that the group is disbanding following the release of two albums this year.
If this is indeed the case, this means that BROCKHAMPTON will fortunately be releasing another album in the coming months, but it’s questionable whether it will be able to exceed the enthralling artistry of "ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE."