BROCKHAMPTON released their sixth studio album “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” April 9, featuring 13 new tracks and four bonus tracks on the album’s physical copy. The project finds the San Marcos, Texas-hailing group leaning into their all-inclusive philosophy — with a lengthy list of guests including JPEGMAFIA, A$AP ROCKY, SoGone So Flexy among others — and continuously evolving production style.
BROCKHAMPTON follows its traditional architecture as they come out swinging, once again, with the March 24 lead single, “BUZZCUT.” Group founder Kevin Abstract opens with an aggressive verse discussing grievances with the criminal system and family issues throughout the pandemic. Abstract’s vocal mixing delivers a crazed sound that meshes seamlessly with a warped, urgent instrumental and rings similar to the second verse from guest appearance Danny Brown.
Just as “BUZZCUT” feels like a crossbreed with Brown’s style, BROCKHAMPTON leans into their guest appearance’s vision once more with “CHAIN ON,” featuring JPEGMAFIA. This round, Peggy and Dom McLennon, the group’s renowned verse-spitter, compete over a minimal instrumental. With a rumbling base, rhythmic tech noises and unobstructive chorus, the song formulates into a track seemingly from JPEGMAFIA’s “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” rather than a BROCKHAMPTON project.
The long-awaited “BANKROLL” finds the boy band striking a better balance of guest appearance influence and BROCKHAMPTON taste. Teased since its non-studio release on YouTube in 2020, the track’s studio version finds not only the highly anticipated A$AP ROCKY feature, but an additional feature from A$AP FERG. Over ominous synthesizers and deafened trap drums, Merlyn Woods finds flows through a stellar verse and Matt Champion presents an energized, shouting chorus to contrast with track’s eeriness.
ROADRUNNER’s spiritual motif comes to an apex on “THE LIGHT” as Joba and Abstract explode with vulnerable, gritty verses dealing with a father’s suicide and homophobic hatred. Over a humming organ and distorted electric guitar, Joba rambles through the track with composed emotional frustration.
“When I heard the news, what I’d do to speak one last time,” he sings. “Think I always will be haunted by the image/ Of a bloody backdrop, skull fragments in the ceiling / Felt your presence in the room, heard my mother squealing.”
Versatile muscles are flexed on the six-minute, all-team cipher “WINDOWS.” With a foundational drum pattern, the production varies across the six verses and numerous choruses to culminate into an all-hands-on-deck track that long-time fans have waited for the group to deliver.
“WHAT’S THE OCCASION?” exists in the same rock-influenced hip hop style of “THE LIGHT” with a tasteful amount of Dr. Dre “2001”-styled synthesizers. Again, Joba reigns the most valuable performer with a melancholy chorus, accompanied by erupting live drums that create a melodramatic moment similar to two distant lovers reuniting.
“A million little pieces all add up to nothin’ lately,” Joba sings. “Swim within my bedsheets, it’s somethin’ like a celebration / What’s the occasion? / What’s the occasion?”
The group expresses their “Best Boyband since One Direction” charisma over the smile-inducing “WHEN I BALL.” The track’s highlight arrives from the onset as Dom McLennon narrates a warmhearted childhood story that concludes with a transition into a bubbly chorus and uplifting string section.
“My momma said I didn’t come into this world with tears,” Dom raps. “Instead I welcomed her with open eyes and open ears / Became the glue to a few things that couldn’t be repaired / We saw a future in each other, blending hope and fear.”
The track finds the boy band reminiscing on their childhood heroes, aspirations and the difficulties of attaining innocent dreams when faced with the cruelties of the real world.
A return to spasmodic, demonic form is found near the close of the album on “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY.” While the track doesn’t hold a candle to the wildest moments from the group’s debut “Saturation” trilogy, the dark imagery from Champion’s verse and eruption of shouting on the chorus cultivates a more matured version of the group’s popular “BOOGIE” track.
One last time, Joba and Abstract collaborated on a spiritual exploration to close the digital release on “THE LIGHT PT. II.” Over sweet church hymns and a muted acoustic guitar, Abstract reveals growth, resolve and empathy with his mother who struggles to accept his sexuality.
“Me and her just got on good terms,” he sings. “Thank God for them unexpected turns / Breaks her heart when she see my city burn / Thank God for teaching me how to learn / Have empathy, even when it burns / But I hate that she got me in this box, expectin’ me to see the light /See the light, see the light.”
The song generates a moment of tranquility after a 43-minute whirlwind and finds both the project, as well as Joba and Abstract, in a headspace of catharsis much like an end of the day meditation or reflection toward the light.
“ROADRUNNER: THE LIGHT, THE MACHINE” is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.