A journey filled with religious themes, mental health awareness and mainstream fame, Brockhampton’s fifth effort ‘GINGER’ resurrects the partially dead brotherhood that was close to burial on their previous project, ‘iridescence’. The much-discussed departure of Ameer Vann had such an impact on the last album that it didn’t meet the standard fans had become accustomed to with the Saturation trilogy. Even frontman Kevin Abstract admitted the album wasn’t as successful as he wanted it to be. Now, almost a year later, the self-proclaimed “hardest working boyband in showbusiness” returns.
Opening with ‘NO HALO’, this is one of the most subdued introductions to any Brockhampton project to-date. With long-time collaborator Ryan Beatty providing a set of solemn opening vocals above gentle guitar, the incoming bassline manages to retain the melancholy of the song, exploring issues around religion and depression. Even the usual eccentric and loud vocals from Merlyn Wood are removed from the equation as he raps in his most muted tones yet.
Taking a while to get into the project’s more dance-friendly territory, third track ‘BOY BYE’ begins to amp things up with its Latin-inspired production. But alas, the main themes are trauma, incarceration and relationship issues - not the most dancefloor ready topics. That being said, the boys carry themselves over the track well, and Bearface’s verse is the most compelling here. We’re accustomed to borderline emo vocals from him, but to hear him almost crossing over into rap shows how Brockhampton are now more willing to step out of their comfort zone than ever.
‘HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU’ is another moment that punctuates the pace of this record. An extremely familiar voice utters the words, ‘It smells like ginger’ before launching into a verse with an equally familiar and distinctive flow. The recognisable voice is that of our very own slowthai. The only vocal performer on the track, it’s almost as if the production has adapted accustomed itself to slowthai’s voice; a perfect musical fit for the Northampton native. You might be left wondering why there is basically a slowthai track on a Brockhampton album, but London had such an impact on them - as well as recording their album at Abbey Road last year – maybe it’s pretty self explanatory.
Moving through to title track ‘GINGER’, the group collectively question the meaning of life and attempt to understand tumultuous issues in others’. Drawing influence from the 2000s - also heard in ‘SUGAR’ - the lyrics overpower production here, resulting in a song that’s more melancholy than perhaps was intended.
The album’s closer ‘VICTOR ROBERTS’ introduces listeners to an apparent new ally of Brockhampton, Victor Roberts. Cynics might say that this new collaborator is a straightforward replacement for Ameer Van. With similarities in flow and subject matter, it seems that the group wanted to retain the gritty feel that Vann once provided, and undoubtedly it ties in well with the simple piano production. However, it also seems that Brockhampton are still missing their former friend and using this project as part of the healing process. With the last lyrics on the album being “thank God for me”, the boys have seemingly connected to a higher power, releasing themselves from constant questioning and the peaks and valleys they were lost in.
With song titles referencing Nina Simone - ‘If You Pray Right (Heaven Belongs To You)’ - as well as heavy influences from Texas (with Three Six Mafia samples and Joba’s chopped, screwed verse on ‘I BEEN BORN AGAIN’), ‘GINGER’ is new ground for Brockhampton, and a gentle nudge to others, urging them to go on their own paths of rediscovery and explore their roots. Thing is, we might need a bit more than a gentle nudge.
Words: Debbie Ijaduola
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