The world’s greatest boy band are experiencing technical difficulties.
Over the past few weeks, Texas collective BROCKHAMPTON have been using their time in quarantine to dig deep and provide entertainment; the group have released songs in couplets every Sunday, with each track being removed the following week. As such, these beats are hot property right now. The group have promised two albums released in 2020, so we can assume that none of these tracks will land on either of those efforts; furthermore, none of these tracks have been uploaded to streaming platforms, such as Spotify or Apple. That said, the group have reformed their website to host these tracks with free downloads, and you can find a collection of these on YouTube. Most of these songs debuted on the TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES livestream announced on Instagram by founder Kevin Abstract. The livestream also seemed to confirm that these singles would continue to drop every week until the release of the two 2020 albums.
As the TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES collection is not technically an album, I won’t be scoring the tracks; it doesn’t feel fair to rate pieces that don’t quite fit into a fuller album. Instead, I’ll be exploring how the tracks hold up compared to other ‘proper’ BROCKHAMPTON albums and songs.
The first of these songs, WAKE UP CALL combines new-hop / trap basslines with classic West Hollywood hooks to embody BROCKHAMPTON’s distinct style. It’s short and sweet, a pretty decent pool-side song that serves as the legs for the first of the single collection, but ultimately has nothing major to help distinguish it from the rest of BROCKHAMPTON’s established discography. That said, these songs aren’t on a feature album for a reason; they’re generally all good hooks and beats that, while lacking the distinctive BROCKHAMPTON polish, reconcile in bounds with charm. WAKE UP CALL has it’s strengths though, specifically in the opening few measures, the beat and harmony work beautifully in tandem before launching into a few bars. It’s a solid start for a mismatched album.
N.S.T (****** stay talking) continues this trend of LA/Compton-esque beats bookended by other influences, mixing styles to create something unique. Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon are at their peaks when rapping about childhood experiences in Corpus Christi; the speed of their bars is impressive, to say the least.
things can’t stay the same uses early ’90s hip hop influence with exaggerated bass beats to create a dominant tone. It’s on the heavier side of BROCKHAMPTON’s music, if not mildly uninspired with a straightforward hook. Truth be told, the under-two-minute runtime is nearly crossing the line of too repetitive and stale. It just about works.
M.O.B (money over bitches) is another instalment in the ‘subgenre’ (for lack of a better phrase) of Kevin Abstract rapping about LGBT issues in the African American community, something that resonates with a large number of BROCKHAMPTON’s audience and something that helped them rise to prominence in 2017. A personal favourite from the technical difficulties collection, I’m surprised that the group couldn’t find anywhere to place this on an upcoming album. Unlike a few of the other tracks, M.O.B. fits in thematically and structurally with other records by featuring a number of BROCKHAMPTON artists (rather than a short solo piece). I hope to see this one make a re-emergence in the future.
The transition between M.O.B and the next track, chain on/hold me (ft. JPEGMAFIA) is masterful, but not quite worthy of rivalling the transition in iridescence between NEW ORLEANS and THUG LIFE. chain on/hold me is another piece that I’m sure would’ve worked on a more extensive concept album if fleshed out. As it stands, it does feel a bit messy. At nearly six minutes long, the piece navigates several inspirations and samples by effectively combining a few songs into one mix, explaining the two titles. The first part (assumedly, chain on) is a relaxed piece about the group’s supersonic rise to fame over the past three years, launching into a sample of the Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M, before awkwardly mixing in a few bars of KRS-One’s Sound of da Police, again clumsily transitioning into the next part of the song (hold me), wherein Kevin raps about his childhood (“fingers crossed, Kriss Kross, apple sauce, Rugrats, writing raps, quitting jobs, running laps”). I hesitate to call this piece a ‘song’ as it feels more of a ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ of beats and bars that didn’t fit anywhere else. It continually shifts tone, theme, and feeling, and it generally doesn’t work for me.
Much like WAKE UP CALL, twisted is more classic BROCKHAMPTON and stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pieces in terms of quality and distinctiveness. Ryan Beatty, a long-time BROCKHAMPTON collaborator, returns with a powerful verse which makes me question why the group haven’t inducted him as a permanent member yet. Like chain on, this certainly feels like it could’ve found its way onto a feature album – it would fit in with the Ginger album released last summer. Distinctively BROCKHAMPTON, this is the best release from this collection. It even feels pretty fitting for 2020; “nobody knows what we’ve been through, it’s been a hell of a year, but I know you got me and I got you”.