Published April 22, 2021
By ANDREW WANG
American hip-hop boy band Brockhampton has released their sixth studio album, “Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine,” a genre-blending project that effectively combines sensitive topics like distancing relationships and suicide with hype rambunctiousness.
The breakout single and opener “BUZZCUT” is an absolute banger that relies on hard-hitting wordplay from band member Kevin Abstract and guest artist Danny Brown while also featuring intensely powerful production with a taste of Brockhampton’s iconic sirens. In a similar vein, the long-awaited A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg assisted “BANKROLL,” a track first teased in 2018, combines trap drums, flute and bars about money to create an authentic hype rap experience — perhaps an authentic Brockhampton experience.
Other cuts seem to draw sonic inspiration from old school head-bopping rap. The instrumentally minimalistic “CHAIN ON” and the rhythmic “WINDOWS” both fit this description, the latter of which features lyrical wordplay from the Brockhampton boys with the chorus weaved in and out.
“Roadrunner” is not without inspiration from other genres, of course. The single “COUNT ON ME” functions as a commercially viable but certainly enjoyable pop-rap fusion; “I’LL TAKE YOU ON” is an irresistibly smooth pop number with a silky verse from Brockhampton member Matt Champion; and “OLD NEWS” converts its R&B and alternative influences into a groovy, bouncy track about failed relationships.
Band member Joba’s arc starts with “THE LIGHT,” a song that begins with a vocal recording of Joba lamenting over how awful the world is before he aggressively delves into an extended verse concerning the suicide of his father and his broken mental health, while Kevin raps about his childhood and tense relationship with his mother. The harsh guitar provides a sonically pleasing backdrop, which creates a strange chemistry with the raw lyrics. Should listeners be concerned for them, or should they be furiously bobbing their heads? Maybe both.
“DEAR LORD” is an intensely minimalist cut that displays many of the Brockhampton boys singing gospel in unison, begging God to help Joba, to let him know he is loved and to allow him to find the light, making for a gorgeous-sounding track for an equally gorgeous moment of kinship and maturity.
This project’s closer is “THE LIGHT PT. II,” where Kevin and Joba expand on their verses from “THE LIGHT” on a minimalistic soul-inspired instrumental. Kevin delves deeper into his relationship with his mother, contrasting her religious zeal with his sexuality, and expresses that his fear of police has led him to make his boyfriend drive because of his white skin.
Joba’s verse on the track seems like he’s talking directly to his dad, asking him if he thought of him when he pulled the trigger, reminiscing about the lessons he learned from him and promising that one day he’ll tell his kids how great their grandfather was. His entire part is quite visceral with its imagery, and some listeners may even find these depictions hard to listen to. That being said, the song ends the project beautifully, with Joba pledging to find his way out of the darkness while his voice echoes the words “the light is worth the wait.”
“Roadrunner” shows that the cast of Brockhampton has evolved as a group. There’s still the hype, angst, rawness, melody and melancholy that early fans fell in love with, but this album shows the boys presenting a higher level of emotional maturity and a capability to both address and ascend life’s tragedies.