Brockhampton, the self-proclaimed best boy band since One Direction, dropped its sixth full-length studio release on April 9. And after a nearly two-year gap since its last record (the longest gap between albums since the group’s first full-length studio release in 2017), the wait proved well worth it as Brockhampton delivers its most diverse and fully developed project yet.
The group has taken the best of both worlds from its musical past; harnessing the effortless chemistry from the “Saturation” trilogy and combining it with the lyrical and sonic maturity of “Ginger” to create a project that is both infectious on a surface level and emotionally rich in its roots.
They simply feel more comfortable than they ever have on this project, and that’s shown through the various highlight features that Brockhampton is unafraid to allow to take the spotlight. The infamous Baltimore rapper and producer JPEGMAFIA glides over the cozy bass and trickly ascending synths on “Chain On,” full of clever quotables as catchy as the instrumental.
Similarly, Danny Brown’s signature swagger glistens through the swirling sirens of the opener, “Buzzcut.” He brings his unique, energetic flare to the quality sound Brockhampton has established for years, and in the track’s psychedelic transition into the alto sax-heavy trap outro, it becomes clear that the features promise a window into new sounds for the group.
This shift was inevitable for the group after the removal of member Ameer Van in 2018 due to sexual misconduct allegations, but it was still unclear through their previous sombering record, “Ginger” where the group would land once the immediacy of the loss had passed.
The answer is it made them stronger than ever. The fractured dynamic gave them room to experiment in exciting ways such as “What’s The Occasion,” a haunting number that laces Joba’s wrenching hook with a wailing guitar or “Count On Me,” where the band leans heavy into their boy band aesthetic to give one of the album’s catchiest choruses.
This fearless exploration in sound also becomes the approach lyrically as we dive deeper into the members’ psyches. JOBA is the standout on “The Light” and the album closer, “The Light Pt. II,” recounting his journey through dealing with his father’s passing.
Kevin Abstract also sounds particularly hungry in both tracks with lines like “I still struggle with tellin’ my mom who I’m in love with” or “Only take the Jeep if my boyfriend is drivin’/Plus he got the kind of skin that make the police like him.”
Some tracks like “I’ll Take You On” or “Old News” don’t feel as powerful as some of the more emotional cuts, but they are still welcome as bursts of creativity in an album packed with risks and are far from derailing the forward momentum.
If “Ginger” was about learning to address pain, “Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine” is the physical fight of pushing through it, chasing after the light at the end of the tunnel. This album is Brockhampton at peak form, dancing at the exit of a long journey to true greatness.