It’s been just over six months since we officially heard anything from the internet’s favourite boyband, Brockhampton, but we’ve seen their name in headlines across social media for more unpleasant reasons than a new dancey hip-hop tune. The band was set to release their latest album at the beginning of June, but after sexual assault allegations against co-founder of the band, Ameer Vann, surfaced back in May, the band laid dormant. And kicked Vann out of the band. It was a big move, considering Vann has been the poster boy for Brockhampton; his face can be seen on all three Saturation albums from 2017, the albums that cemented the large hip-hop collective into the scene and established a hardcore cult following.
To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about kicking Ameer out of the group. I feel uncomfortable because he was my favourite member of Brockhampton, alongside the pretty boy Matt Champion. And yes, Ameer was still my favourite even though his flow never steered from the southern slur and his lyrics were always about selling drugs and thuggish behaviour. And I feel confused because there has been no news on Ameer. He has been deleted from society. The band made a statement following the booting of their friend, stating that they were lied to, and they were sorry for not speaking up sooner. Obviously, eluding to the fact that Ameer was giving false information to his friends and bandmates about his past actions. But after the statement, the band went silent. Understandably so, they were upset and hurt over what had happened. But where is Ameer? Were these allegations reported to the police? His social media profiles have been deleted. Is he in jail now? The internet will not answer these questions. Ameer brought the streets to Brockhampton, brought a dangerous attitude to his lyrics, a side that is not at all new to hip-hop, but stood out in a band whose lyrics were more about emotional struggle rather than physical struggle. So, I guess you can see I’m still a bit upset over the situation.
Brockhampton resurfaced a couple weeks back for a live performance on Jimmy Fallon. They performed their unreleased track, Tonya; a bittersweet subtler performance compared to their bigger singles like Sweet, Boogie, Gold and Gummy. I don’t mind the track, I haven’t really given it the time of day apart from a couple listens on YouTube. The performance was emotional, sadder than what I’ve come to expect from the self-acclaimed world’s best boyband. But that’s not bad, it’s just different. It definitely did feel like a boyband track though, thanks to the over-emotional, over-performed opening verse by Bearface, like he’s singing the hook out of some sad emo pop tune from the early 2000s.
And now the band have finally released their latest single, 1999 Wildfire. Thankfully, the solid production from the Saturation trilogy returns. Off-beat drums kick and soft flute melodies twist in the background, almost like a mix between their singles Sweet and Gummy. The hook, which front man Kevin Abstract sings in the music video, doesn’t sound like Abstract. Vocal effects are layered to create a thicker sound, some falsetto vocals creep through, but the desired effect sounds more like an OutKast song rather than what Abstract’s given on previous hooks. Matt Champion is back with his cool-boy-slur, delivering some dope lines with a solid flow. Joba is once again cleverly utilised as he mixes his 90s Justin Timberlake tone with an Eminem flow. His lyrics are fantastical, as he raps about being a medieval wizard. It all sounds good, and the flutes and minimal production compliment his verse, but I don’t understand how it relates to what Champion just finished spitting.
Dom McLennon, who I reckon is the most talented songwriter and rapper in Brockhampton, comes through with a solid verse and great flow. It’s more socially aware than what Joba just finished with, once again the inconsistencies in the verse make it hard to understand what I’m hearing. McLennon’s verse is short and sweet, but not his best.
The song is interrupted with a beat switch and Bearface changes the flow of the track. The beat still sounds great, thanks to fantastic production by the Brockhampton team. Double kick drums beat in and jangle guitars compliment the whistley flute. But it’s Bearface that ruins 1999 Wildfire for me. His overproduced, over-performed vocals sound like someone from a bad Australian Idol audition. You know, when someone adds a little wave to the pitch of their vocals because they think that sounds good? Like what Beyoncé and Solange can do so effortlessly. That’s what Bearface does. Except when he does it, with the vocal effects layered on top of his voice, it sounds nasally and whingey. Bearface adds the quintessential tropes of poppy boybands into Brockhampton, and now with the loss of Ameer, the band are utilising Bearface who was usually reserved for the closing tracks to their albums. And now there’s no one to balance out the highly emotional R&B vocal attempts. The band suffers because of it.
1999 Wildfire is a subtler Brockhampton tune. And that’s not a bad thing, they have many quieter and emotional tunes on their previous albums. They saturated the market with their obscure and cleverly produced rap bangers last year, so I guess they can release a subtler single. But the tone of the band has certainly shifted in their latest two singles (Tonya, 1999 Wildfire). They don’t have the thuggish, slower slur that would break up the quick flow of McLennon, or compliment Matt Champion’s cool boy charm. I’m interested to see how this album will sound, obviously they’ve had to restructure and possibly rerecord the album after the loss of Ameer. But as far as 1999 Wildfire is concerned, I think it’s one of the weakest Brockhampton singles.