BROCKHAMPTON took a two year hiatus in order to figure out exactly what new sound and message they wanted to convey with their sixth studio album, ”ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE.” The extended timeout and reclusiveness that 2020 ushered in seems to have forced BROCKHAMPTON inherently towards self-discovery, reflection, and self-mastery.
The definition of the word “self” must be adjusted to fit the boy band’s collective strength. BROCKHAMPTON as a collective offers multiple perspectives and stories through the many selves they are able to spread throughout each member.
2020, (which has arguably been one of the darkest years) – also brought forth the identity of humanity as a collective as well. Throughout a pandemic sweeping the nation, hate crimes and police brutality rising at an alarming rate – 2020 was a year in which our trauma was somewhat bonded and shared amongst all of us in some way or another.
What became ultimately clear are that the foundations of this country, these systems of oppressions, that keep the machine of America going are running amuck. There isn’t any way to mask it’s stench of rot and decay. 2020 was meant to be an open casket for these systems of oppression – we were collectively forced to not only confront our own individual trauma but the trauma that this country carries itself.
BROCKHAMPTON’s new album, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” chronicles the high-speed chase they went on in order to uncover the light as they endured the dark night of the soul.
2020 resembled that of a haunting, it’s evil confined within its relentless calendar. Time began to stand still, the prospect of loss appeared ceaseless – the sun’s divine light seemed to no longer rise once the moon crowned itself. The darkness quickly became the dictator of our minds and lives.
The first half of the album is the act of the darkness setting in and with it comes intense feelings of anger, confusion, and an air of paranoia creeping in from the open windows as if they are the gates to hell. The first track off the album and the first single to drop as well, “BUZZCUT,” sonically represents a glitch in the system – the beat is like a car alarm, sounding off in an abandoned parking lot.
The beat and general sound BROCKHAMPTON explored within this new album possesses the same energy as the revving of a new machine. The album roars and glistens the same no matter what phase of the transformation they are currently enduring. The shedding of the old systems of oppression must occur and BROCKHAMPTON spends the first three tracks undergoing this process as they confront their past.
On the track, “CHAIN ON ME” featuring JPEGMAFIA, showcases BROCKHAMPTON confronting the generational trauma in which their ancestors endured, while also unpacking the sense of fuel and pride they receive from them as well.
The chain can be symbolic of a reclamation of power in retaliation to the white gaze. The chain can also be a reference to the enslavement their ancestors were bound to. Dom really steals the show with his verse on this track.
He raps, “I been ten toes down with the city on my shoulders. You got no idea how that weight could make you colder. Screamin, free my n*****, it’s never over. Spirit said, it’s time for me to really be a solider now.”
Just like the heaviness of wearing a chain – Dom compares that weight to the pressure he feels in order to continue to fight for black lives and liberation in all forms, just as his ancestors once fought for with tired bones.
On the song, “THE LIGHT,” BROCKHAMPTON continues to sift through and heal childhood trauma as it’s scars become more revealing to them. Joba tackles the death of his father who lost his life due to suicide. Kevin Abstract speaks to the disapproval and homophobia he still faces as a result of being out.
He raps, “I still struggle with tellin’ my mom who i’m in love with. Subtleties in between where these diamonds gleam. When Thanksgiving come through, I still don’t see ‘em. When Christmas come around, n****, I still don’t see ‘em.”
The track, “COUNT ON ME,” tackles the sense of isolation that took place not only as a result of the pandemic, but the on-going polarity of our nation politically as well .
BROCKHAMPTON started exploring the urgency for stability and loyalty, not just in their relationships but also financially. This song sonically was much more R&B leading, more emphasis on vocals being a core component to the track.
If BROCKHAMPTON wasn’t leaning towards a more R&B and soul inspired approach sonically as they were on tracks, “COUNT ON ME” and “I’LL TAKE YOU ON” – then they were experimenting with elements of soft rock, even gospel.
The two tracks that are complete stand alones on the album are, “WHEN I BALL” and “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY.” There is the slight prospect of hope and dreams, a glimmer of light that can be found within the track, “WHEN I BALL.”
The instrumentation features heavenly strings that float like angels above. “WHEN I BALL” feels like the applause at the end of a production, a life, a story. BROCKHAMPTON acknowledges their childhood dreams and influential figures who encouraged them to chase their dreams.
However, BROCKHAMPTON also takes this moment to also acknowledge how far they have come in pursuit of their dreams. They spit on how difficult it is to see and picture their dreams as fully realized and possible. They praise themselves for being able to keep following their vision and dreams even when they couldn’t see the light.
“DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY” directly addresses how much violence is caused due to systems of oppressions that further fuel a rise in public shootings and police violence. The instrumentation takes influences from funk and pop despite the lyrics being so graphic.
Abstract raps, “I had to go back home, I seen too many n***** die in a week. Get my dawgs black wealth, let em’ live well. “ Abstract really set the tone of each track through the performative expression and emphasis of his voice. The aggression and vulnerability is evident in his voice.
“The people need more of the money. These white people don’t love me.”
On the chorus, they sing the desperate plea, “don’t shoot up the party, please.” However, the album has one more final plea. With seemingly no one else to turn to, no justification for the way systems of oppressions keep on living as they simultaneously continue to take lives – they plea to God, to the light.
The track to help close out the album, “DEAR LORD” is straight up gospel inspired and Bearface takes the spotlight literally. The song is blessed by his vocals alone, his voice and lyrics act as the prayer.
He sings, “Dear Lord, Lord. Will you come down and help out my brother? He needs you more. I want you to let him know that he’s still loved. So when your love shines through like the light, let him know you want him to fight.”