Fill in the Blank: Brockhampton is a force worth rooting for after new album

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

Last Friday, Brockhampton released its fourth studio album, “iridescence,” and the Internet — specifically, my Twitter feed — lost its collective mind.

I stumbled upon Brockhampton after a trusted friend insisted that I sample its “All-American Trash” mixtape a couple of years ago. The music didn’t blow me away, but the personalities behind the project left an impression on me. As a former fan of Odd Future, the notion of a hip-hop collective geared toward suburban audiences greatly appealed to me. The successive releases of the “Saturation” trilogy last year tapped into my inner fanboy in ways that I hadn’t felt about an emerging artist since I burnt myself out on Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” as a high school freshman. Since then, I’ve been a firm believer in the group, patiently waiting for the next chapter of its career to unfold.

“iridescence” comes in the midst of a largely eventful 2018 for the self-described boy band — from selling out tours to recording a documentary about its trials and tribulations to expelling a core member who was accused of sexual misconduct.

I, like many, was shocked, appalled and deeply disappointed upon hearing about the allegations against Ameer Vann. Here was a young man on the brink of superstardom with a group of friends that pursued their dreams, and his own shameful history stripped him of that success. Vann was brutally honest about his dishonorable past in his music, and he showed a certain willingness to separate himself from that past over time. Yet, as a core member of a group that holds a strong stance against sexual assault and toxic masculinity, this kind of behavior was especially unacceptable, and he was rightfully dismissed soon afterward.

I was unsure how Brockhampton would recover and respond creatively to such an earth-shattering situation. The group shelved all of its initial follow-ups to the critically-acclaimed “Saturation” trilogy, including “Team Effort,” “Puppy” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” It performed an especially emotional rendition of “TONYA” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It released a few singles, none of which picked up much traction among mainstream audiences. For a while, it was anyone’s guess as to when the next Brockhampton project would arrive and what it would look like without Vann, so the announcement earlier this month that “iridescence” was arriving on Friday reverberated within the band’s dedicated community of fans.

Admittedly, I am a passionate member of this community, and, for me, “iridescence” couldn’t come soon enough. Finally, after a brutal week of contentious midterms and deadlines, I walked out of work on Thursday night to the most pleasant of surprises — the arrival of “iridescence.”

Being as objective as a fanboy can, “iridescence” is absolutely incredible. Devoid of Brockhampton’s usual obvious singles or sticky choruses, the album is a perfect combination of experimentation and accessibility, and it captures the ups and downs that the band has undergone in the past year.

The album, much like its creators, cannot be defined solely by its lyrics or melodies (which are already excellent); it is everything at once. It is an attitude, an aesthetic and an identity, and one cannot exist without the others. To truly enjoy Brockhampton is to believe in it and understand that its message extends far beyond their music.

For me, the most surreal part of its hasty ascension to the pinnacle of popular music has been its unprecedented appeal to young men. While Brockhampton is for everyone, the group has accomplished what few self-described boy bands have before in tapping into a previously untouched demographic of potential fans. Its shows and events are a hodgepodge of 20-year-old boys and 14-year-old girls reveling side-by-side in shared admiration for the boys from San Marcos, Texas.

“iridescence” is the first of six albums slated to be released over the next three years as part of Brockhampton’s $15 million deal with RCA Records. In a true testament to the members’ belief in themselves as a collective, the proceeds of that deal were split evenly among the group. While many fans usually recoil in horror when their favorite artist signs with a major label, Brockhampton’s fandom, for the most part, understood that it was not a sellout for the group, but more the product of its tireless work ethic and high-quality output. And if “iridescence” is any indication, the next three years should spell nothing but victory for Brockhampton’s vibrant and diverse community of fans.

Matthew Philips is a junior majoring in journalism. He is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Fill in the Blank,” runs every other Monday.