A rap album with an outstandingly large musical spectrum, proposing in one go a few boom bap beats and g-funk sirens, but also a bit of pop, rock, classy soul, old R&B sang with a falsetto, and a pinch of gospel and reggae. A motley work, full of detours and unexpected turns, where creativity reigns supreme, and multiple men express themselves, each with their own voices, styles, personalities, and formulas.

BROCKHAMPTON - Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine

A release where the standard hip-hop braggadocio gives way to the deep thoughts of several boys supposed to represent the American youth of today. And a strong influence from Kanye West, signaled by the Yeezus-inspired CD cover art.

No doubt: what hides behind this abstruse title, Roadrunner - New Light, New Machine, is a Brockhampton record.

And though, the band has changed. After a long period of silence, more or less due to the pandemic, their leader Kevin Abstract explained to The Guardian that he is done with the "boys band" label, he originally claimed. Also, on Twitter, he said that this album would be their penultimate.

This is not the same Brockhampton as before. They no longer pretend to be self-sufficient; they have some prestigious guests. The collective summoned Danny Brown, JPEGMAFIA, A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, as well as Chad Hugo, who produces “When I Ball”. And since they are much more than a rap band, they invite Shawn Mendes, and even Charlie Wilson, in addition to their partner Ryan Beaty.

Relatively speaking, Roadrunner is probably the most normal album, in Brockhampton's heavily abnormal discography. There are other trends on this album, than their radical eclecticism. Most notably, their hip-hop roots are more apparent than ever. It is obvious on "Chain On", with its Wu-Tang Clan sample – from "C.R.E.A.M.", no less – but also on "Buzzcut", when Danny Brown covers lyrics from Nas, "The Light, part II", where Jeezy is mentioned, and "Windows", when Merlyn Wood pays a tribute to Phife Dawg.

That specific track is the only one with all rappers from the band, and it is also a good old posse cut – and a particularly solid one. And there's also the damn good "Bankroll" where, with their new friends from the A$AP Mob, they walk in Diddy's footsteps, with an ode to money, that old routine.

There are also a few comments about racial inequality. On "Buzzcut", Kevin Abstract suggests that fame won't prevent him, a black boy, to end up in prison, the white man justice having already condemned his cousin for nothing. On "The Light, Part II", he alludes to racial profiling, suggesting that it will be safer if his white friend, not him, drives the car.

On "Chain On", Dom McLennon talks about the never-finished liberation of Black men. And on "When I Ball", he thinks about his imprisoned uncles, and his similar fate. As for the explosive "Don't Shoot Up The Party", it talks about racism, violence and homophobia, in no particular order.

Also, melancholy is a frequent feeling, here. Roadrunner, indeed, is emotionally charged. Sometimes, this is only about heartbreaks, like on "Old News", or the nice "What's The Occasion", that lies somewhere between indie rock and The Beatles. And there is the bittersweet "When I Ball", where Dom McLennon and Matt Champion evoke their childhood with nostalgia, though it was everything but easy.

It can become much heavier, like with the track that titles the album, its central one, "The Light", where Kevin Abstract goes back to an old subject matter, his mother's reaction to him being gay, and where Joba talks about a traumatizing life event: his father's suicide. This is just the first part, highlighted by a noisy guitar. But there is another where Joba, seconded by an acoustic version of the same instrument, invites us to overcome our griefs, despite everything.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, according to him. The full album confirms this. A couple of pop attempts like "Count On Me" set aside, Roadrunner might be Brockhampton's best album since the three Saturation and the ban of Ameer Vann. If there is really just one left, let's hope that the end of this strange band, will be their apotheosis.

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