It is probably telling that I feel like it’s been an eternity since the last Brockhampton. In reality it has been 11 months and during that time we got an underrated album from Kevin Abstract. The group has been known for their incredibly fast turnaround between albums, making this their fifth album since their breakout Saturation two years ago.
Ginger also is following the divisive Iridescence, the group’s first album after signing to RCA and it certainly previewed a more melodic and introspective side to the group. Despite pushback from fans to go back to what they were doing on the Saturation trilogy, Ginger sees the rap collective moving further down the path they made for themselves last year. The songs here are incredibly somber and introspective, dealing heavily with feelings of pain and loss. What I liked about Iridescence was how Brockhampton seemed to hint at darker feelings, especially after kicking out Ameer Vann, but Ginger really dives deep in the depression and anxiety that the group are feeling being signed to a big label and no longer having Vann in the group.
The opener “No Halo,” sets the tone wonderfully, with a calming acoustic guitar driving the beat as the boys discuss their own imperfections ranging from their relationships to substance abuse and loosely tie it into the religious themes that go throughout this record. It flows smoothly into “Sugar” which is driven by Ryan Beatty’s beautiful chorus. Dom McLennon continues to take the mantle of the best rapper in the group and sounds great on here, as does Matt Champion and Kevin Abstract who each shine as well.
After this, the album takes a drastic shift in sound with “Boy Bye,” which features vocals from each member of the group. The beat is energetic and bouncy, similar to what was on the Saturation albums that made them big. Despite some of the boastfulness of the track, moments such as Kevin’s verse show that there is still an underlying pain here.
Following this, we have three tracks that I think flow together well as a singular unity. The first track, “Heaven Belongs to You,” is only 90 seconds and is an extended feature from rapper Slowthai, who I highly recommend everyone check out, who raps about his mental health and his complex relationship with religion. It serves as a nice intro into “St. Percy” which comes on with a booming beat and features great verses from Kevin, Matt, Dom and Bearface who especially impresses towards the end. The track is nostalgic and reflective to where the group was prior to their success and puts it in perspective to where they are now. The beat switches up at the end to seamlessly go into “If You Pray Right,” one of the best songs in the group’s catalog. The song parallel’s the group’s emotions to various religious iconography. The beat is as complex as it is playful, especially on Joba’s verse where the sound effects call back to early Eminem records.
The track delivers more than the single that preceded it, “I Been Born Again” which is certainly solid but just not nearly as memorable as other moments on here. Kevin’s more monotone delivery works considering the content but does not entirely gel with the rest of the track, mainly Joba’s verse which sounds like something you’d hear on an old Odd Future mixtape.
This also might have to do with the fact that “I Been Born Again” has the misfortune of following this album’s clear centerpiece “Dearly Departed.” The song is not subtle in finally addressing a topic that fans have only gotten hints at and that is the departure of Ameer Vann following sexual misconduct reports. Kevin’s verse discusses his own personal growth with Ameer and how traumatic the experience has been for the group as a whole. Matt’s verse is similarly somber as it goes into the loneliness that has come following Ameer’s removal. Dom’s verse is the clear standout and might be his most emotional verse ever. He tells the story of how Ameer was responsible for his friend’s getting jumped while in Texas and the anger that he feels after being taken advantage of, complete with sounds of him storming out the studio. The song very much tackles the many stages of grief and trauma that go on following such an incident.
The album ends on a softer note, starting with the title track “Ginger.” It’s a sweet, melancholic moment with some pretty smooth vocals and solid verses about similar themes of pain and trauma that the group is going through. The song “Big Boy” has themes of masculinity and how it is used to combat emotion. Joba’s verse on here is the standout for me as it adds a needed bit of intensity to the track. “Love Me For Life” is an alright song, it certainly benefits from a solid verse from Merlyn and a good outro from Bearface but besides that it feels a little undercooked compared to the other songs here.
Closing the album is another guest feature, this time from the titular rapper Victor Roberts. Roberts raps about his life journey dealing with his family’s struggle with crime and drugs and how he has had to deal with the shock and betrayal of having someone he trusted do something that put him in danger. While a great story on his own, when paired with the rest of the album it is clear why they chose to end with this as it parallels the exact themes of betrayal and trauma the group spend the rest of the album dealing with.
Fans of the direction Brockhampton have been teasing at will certainly love this album. It still sounds like the group we have grown to love but certainly marks their darkest chapter to date and shows that this is a group that needs time to work out many deep emotions. Ginger perfectly captures where the group is at right now and certainly deserves people’s attention. While not anything like those classic Saturation albums, this is certainly one of the best in the group’s discography.
Best Tracks: No Halo, Sugar, Boy Bye, If You Pray Right, Dearly Departed, Ginger, Victor Roberts
Worst Track: Love Me For Life