2017 saw the rise of the self-proclaimed boy band, Brockhampton, as they embarked on the ambitious journey of releasing three albums within months of each other. These albums would be known collectively as the Saturation trilogy. While the trilogy, for the most part, has received massive critical acclaim, there are some critics who take some issue with the collection. More specifically, critics seem to take issue with the fact that there is some repetition throughout these projects. This criticism is shared between so many people that Brockhampton themselves had to acknowledge it on a track on Saturation III, “Stains.”
Y’all motherfuckers made three albums
Still talking about the same shit
The one gay, the one selling drugs
The one that’s tryna act like Lil Wayne
What the fuck is this shit man?
Not only are Brockhampton well aware that they are being repetitive throughout their trilogy, but from the looks of it, the repetition is intentional. In fact, much of the repetition is there for two oddly specific reasons: for the sake of storytelling and the sake of their audience.
Plenty of the running themes which appear throughout the Saturation trilogy are there to contribute to a larger story within the confides of this trilogy. By continually bringing the same or similar ideas up, it adds more weight and importance to that idea in the larger scheme of things. This is normally a technique indicative of filmmaking, and as we can tell from their music videos, Brockhampton have always had a flair for the cinematic. Take, for example, the character of Roberto, the recurring man who appears in every Brockhampton music video. “Me llamo Roberto….” That guy; the guy played by Robert Ontenient, the same guy who works as the group’s producer. At first glance–especially to non-Spanish speaking listeners–these Roberto clips appear to be nothing more than a random quirk that the group uses to connect their videos, or at the very least, it’s their way to be weird for the sake of being weird. This ceases to be the case when we take into account the numerous skits throughout the albums themselves where Roberto appears.
The first skit of Saturation, “SKIT 1,” picks up right after the music video “FACE” where Roberto and Brockhampton destroy their house. Now, in “SKIT 1,” Roberto is at a lost existentially and literally. He destroyed his house, there is no turning back, and he has no place to go. By “SKIT 2,” he contemplates suicide, but fears that no one would remember him if he does. It might also be worth noting that on “FACE,” Ameer Vann says the line “I need a friend, and you need a home,” perhaps adding another bridge connection “FACE” and these aforementioned skits. Roberto’s existential escapade progresses throughout the three albums and by the final skit of Saturation III, “CINEMA 3,” Roberto is on his hands and knees praying to God for some better luck to come his way. Whether his story continues in Brockhampton’s next album is left up in the air. In any case, this scene highlights how Roberto is struggling trying to find his place in the world, much like Brockhampton themselves, their fans, and frankly, all of us taking part in this complicated game called life.
Of all of the recurring themes throughout the Saturation, identity is perhaps the biggest. Why is that? Because Brockhampton understand that identity is something which conflicts the larger bulk of their fans. Brockhampton themselves are filled with like-minded eccentrics who would fall under the label of “outcasts.” The kind of guys who struggle to fit into one tightly knit box or subgroup. They understand that this is a quality that most listeners would gravitate to because these listeners can hear their own struggles reflected in the lyrics of Brockhampton. The sexually confused, the minority, the different, the criminal, the oddball, the misfit, the “other.” Brockhampton is filled with “the other” and most of their fans can relate to that kind of perspective. Kevin Abstract said it himself on “JUNKY” when he said:
“Why you always rap about bein’ gay?”
‘Cause not enough niggas rap and be gay
Where I come from, niggas get called “faggot” and killed
So I’ma get head from a nigga right here
And they can come and cut my hand off and, and my legs off and
And I’ma still be a boss ’til my head gone, yeah
While this defiant verse plays as a giant middle finger to critics who disagree with his approach, it also does two monumentally important things: it provides a reasonable explanation as to why so many of his verses center around his sexuality, and why “get[ting] head from a nigga right here” won’t make him any less great. He focuses so much on his sexuality because there aren’t enough gay rappers out there, and his perspective as a gay rapper could give gay listeners something to relate to. He puts his heart on a platter for the world to see and even if it risks a public castration–in the figurative and very literal sense–he can at least say he was true to himself. He never sacrificed who he was for the contentment of others. Brockhampton understand how important it is for people to hear stuff like that. To hear that we need to stay true to ourselves, even if it risks the sanctity of our comfort zone.
Another thing we need to consider is that we cannot classify the Saturation trilogy as three separate albums. Sure, we could in the sense that nothing is stopping us from doing so–it’s not like I’m the Saturation police actively telling you how to think about these albums or something–but it would be doing a disservice to everything this trilogy is as a collection. Everything that the group put into this project, from the running themes, over-arching storylines, and recurring lines which connect this entire trilogy. When you take all of that into account, this doesn’t feel like three separate albums. It feels like all these albums need to be considered as one epic entity. One entity that reflects the space each Brockhampton member was in at the time of recording. Which, again, was within a short matter of months. Which explains why we hear so many verses where Kevin Abstract talks about being gay, Ameer Vann talks about being a drug dealer, etc. More than anything else, the Saturation trilogy is a time capsule created by outcasts for outcasts.
So, at the end of the day, Brockhampton’s constant repetition is reflective of who they are as a collective, and how they view their audience collectively. The Saturation trilogy is but one chapter in the ongoing journey of Brockhampton and when they release their fourth album, Team Effort, in 2018, we should expect new material that reflects the men they are becoming within their newfound cult phenomenon.