Within the span of sixteen months, BROCKHAMPTON released three albums, self-produced their own documentary series, and signed a fifteen-million dollar deal with RCA. The group has endured many major life adjustments—the most jarring being the exit of alleged abuser Ameer Vann (accused by several women of sexual misconduct). Taking the initiative to distance themselves from Vann, the group rejected the misconception that one piece could define their whole. Following some time spent at Abbey Road Studios, seemingly rewriting or rebranding, BROCKHAMPTON has delivered iridescence.
A pregnant woman graces the album’s cover, painted in technicolor thermography imaging. It feels like a pointed choice compared to the covers of their last three albums, which have all donned ex-member Vann. Thermography uses radiant heat and translates it into an image; it changes with each movement and ostensibly looks iridescent, like a bubble or the back of a CD. But this iridescence is a warning—though beautiful, it’s also a symptom of fragility and nakedness. The album is incredibly dark in spite of its title, and BROCKHAMPTON’s most vital element is their willingness to lean into that darkness.
iridescence proves the American rap group—or boy band, if you ask them—have found the right balance of vulnerability and abrasive freneticism. The album’s first verse, where Dom McLennon narrates the anticipation of failure and combustion, is an accurate introduction to the following fourteen tracks. At times, the album feels inflamed, swollen with industrial rugged beats and feverish distortion, as on the revved up “District,” while other tracks are extremely tender, like “San Marcos” and “Tonya.” The lyrics are riddled with reflections on self-doubt, the catalysts of fame and materialism, religion, and mental strife (“Praise god, hallelujah, I’m still depressed” Joba yells on “District”).
This is BROCKHAMPTON’s most cohesive effort to date. Its satin lining of references and attention to detail allows for every listen to reveal another layer of luster. The album uses narratives of money-hunger and the suffocation of fame to get at the heart of mental-health issues that can still emerge even after one has reached the top. Still, as BROCKHAMPTON visit the temptress and vice of capitalism, and grapple with the isolation and paranoia that accompanies notoriety, they also take care to maneuver through moments of subtlety and sweetness—as on “Something About Him,” where Kevin Abstract muses about his boyfriend (“There’s something about him / Yeah, his attitude is like magic”). Like most of iridescence, it is both pure and honest.