BROCKHAMPTON continues to wrestle with the sudden ousting of member Ameer Vann on “GINGER,” their most deeply personal and intimate album yet.
Boyband and rap collective BROCKHAMPTON burst onto the alternative pop-rap scene in 2017 with their critically acclaimed “SATURATION” trilogy, but the years since have been mired in controversy. In May 2018, founding member Ameer Vann was removed from the group over allegations of sexual misconduct.
The group first attempted to regroup after Vann’s removal with the 2018 album “iridescence.” While the album carried emotional heft, it felt somewhat underdeveloped and rushed to fulfill their new record deal. After a brief hiatus earlier this year, during which lead member Kevin Abstract released a solo album, “GINGER” represents the collective’s first output in the past year.
The album opens on a high note with the track “NO HALO,” featuring particularly moving verses from Matt Champion and Dom McLennon reflecting on failures in their relationships and battles with mental health. The track features a guitar-laced backing beat that elevates the verses to an otherworldly, heavenly setting, contrary to the title of the track.
The beat transitions almost seamlessly into the following track “SUGAR,” which again features a powerful verse from Matt Champion, the clearly highlighted member of the group throughout the album. Champion sings on more than half of the tracks and he provides some of the most emotionally charged verses present on the album.
After a brief respite with the higher energy track “BOY BYE,” the album transitions into the trio of the slowthai-assisted “HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU,” “ST. PERCY” and the album’s lead single “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT.” The tracks flow together smoothly and make for a cohesive listening experience that few other moments of the album match.
Undoubtedly, the album’s highest moment is on the seventh track, “DEARLY DEPARTED.” Featuring a gut-wrenching refrain sung by Joba, this track offers the most reflection regarding Vann’s departure on the LP.
The final verse from McLennon includes one of the first instances of the group commenting on the negative behaviors that ultimately led to Vann’s removal. McLennon raps about how Vann set up one of his friends to be robbed and how he refuses to censor the truth just because of the relationship he once had with Vann. The verse easily makes the most poignant moment on the whole album and sheds light on the inner turmoil the group underwent over the past year.
After this emotional high point, the album starts to falter in quality but wrestles with the same themes that permeate other portions of the record. Another one of the singles, “I BEEN BORN AGAIN,” is incredibly high intensity, with both a Kevin Abstract verse and a beat that sounds like it would fit in perfectly on the “SATURATION” trilogy.
The final four songs also represent the lowest points of the album. This portion of the LP contains tracks that share messages similar to those found in earlier tracks but fail to replicate the production and lyricism that made them novel and meaningful. However, the tracks themselves still continue the redemption story present throughout the record.
The final track on the album, “VICTOR ROBERTS,” features vocals from Victor Roberts, a friend of McLennon’s who has no musical experience otherwise. He tells the story of letting someone stay in his house who later ended up betraying him by getting arrested for dealing drugs. This track represents a weird moment on the record; while there are parallels between this story and Vann’s involvement with BROCKHAMPTON, it leaves the record with a strange ending that poses more questions than answers.
Looking beyond the questionable ending, “GINGER” is BROCKHAMPTON’s most cohesive and consistent attempt at coming to terms with Vann’s departure and moving forward as a group. The stunning instrumentals heard throughout BROCKHAMPTON’s discography wield more power than ever, due to the emotional heft and context of the album.
Abstract, usually seen as the figurehead of the group, opts to take a backseat to let other members shine and talk about their own relationships with Vann, providing a new level of depth and intimacy to the falling out. It finally seems like BROCKHAMPTON is ready to leave Vann’s legacy in the past and continue to evolve and grow into their role as hip-hop’s preeminent boyband.