‘Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine’ builds off of Brockhampton’s other albums to create a sound all its own
I will admit that I’m a bit biased: I’ve been listening to Brockhampton for the past four years, have eagerly awaited the release of their last three albums and follow each member of the thirteen-person hip hop collective on my socials. Yet, I was still surprised upon the release of Brockhampton’s newest album, “Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine,” as the self-named “boy band” continues to merge different genres of music and deliver inspired additions to their multifaceted repertoire.
Brockhampton excels when they ride the fine line between hip hop, pop and R&B; this is evident in “Roadrunner,” as the group successfully balances their lyrical aptitude with straightforward yet effective production value.
The album’s opener, “BUZZCUT (feat. Danny Brown),” brings an energetic and angsty introduction to the album, very reminiscent to how songs “BOOGIE” and “NEW ORLEANS” began “Saturation III” and “Iridescence,” respectively. Whooping sirens and a sharp backbeat complement verses by lead Kevin Abstract. Abstract touches upon the group’s rocky rise to success, too, as his later verse describes their unfulfilling deal with RCA records: “Deals they had us sign; for years it had me blind.”
Other songs on “Roadrunner” fall short, though, as Brockhampton leans on habits from the “Saturation” trilogy, where many songs felt either too long or overcomplicated. These songs, while not bad, fall to the wayside in comparison to those with more staying power.
“WINDOWS (feat. SoGone SoFlexy)” is nearly two minutes longer than the next longest song on the album. While the song includes a verse from each vocalist, six verses (plus an intro, bridge, outro, and interlude) in my opinion, is just too many for one song. “CHAIN ON (feat. JPEGMafia)” builds off of the group’s energy in their first song, as feature JPEGMafia holds his own with fun and unique pop culture references. Yet the song pales in comparison to other songs on the album that are more cohesive and offer more replayability.
Many songs follow the success of hits like “BLEACH” from “Saturation III” and “SUGAR” from “Ginger.” These songs have the potential to be ubiquitous in modern culture, as they utilize each of Brockhampton’s members’ strengths to enhance the overall song.
“COUNT ON ME” offers a layered, harmony-ridden chorus with uncredited features to Shawn Mendes and Ryan Beatty; “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY” delivers a unique take on the usual party hype song with its heavy-handed political commentary; “I’LL TAKE YOU ON (feat. Charlie Wilson)” intertwines pop and R&B for a catchy and endearing love song. Despite how great each of these songs are, I believe “BANKROLL (feat. A$AP Rocky & A$AP Ferg)” to be the standout among them. Producer Jabari Manwa combines a flute and guitar to support the reverb in A$AP Rocky’s pre-chorus: “They couldn’t take that from me,” “They want love, they got me, listen.” The song definitely showcases Manwa’s musical prowess, and it furthers my belief that Manwa deserves more credit than he often receives.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention “THE LIGHT” and “THE LIGHT PT. II.” Much like in Brockhampton’s other albums, the group offers a few deep-rooted confessionals, but these stand out by telling a cohesive story and allowing Joba, a founding member of the group, to lay all his cards out on the table.
Joba intimately details the specifics of his father’s suicide with lines in “THE LIGHT”: “At a loss, aimless, six feet,” “deep, suffocatin’, can’t face it,” “can’t change it, ain’t make it.” He follows this up with an emotional resolution in the chorus to “THE LIGHT PT. II”: “The light is worth the wait,” “I promise, wait,” “why did you do it?” These songs serve as the backbone to the album, as they bring emotion and gravity to the atmosphere that the vocalists and production create.
Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives in “Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine.” The album is a poignant look into how our individual experiences impact us, and it provides an outlet for each of the group’s mainstays to shine in ways that they haven’t before. If you like rap or pop music, enjoy Brockhampton’s other albums or appreciate reading between the lines of song lyrics, I recommend you give this album a listen.