S+H Top Ten: BROCKHAMPTON
S+H Top Ten is a series in which the Scene+Heard staff rank the ten best songs by one of our favorite artists.
In honor of the recent completion of their SATURATION album trilogy and first Coachella performance, the Scene+Heard staff have ranked BROCKHAMPTON’s 10 best songs.
Also check out our BROCKHAMPTON Spotify playlist on our Scene+Heard account, which includes these 10 songs and other honorable mentions.
“Why you always rap about bein’ gay?
Cause not enough n****s rappin’ be gay.”
What distinguishes “JUNKY” from BROCKHAMPTON’s ranging discography is the song’s conviction—the hunger as the group sinks its teeth into this song. It begins with Kevin Abstract delivering sulfurous poetry over an increasingly disquieting, drumless synth pattern. This swerves into a mad, off-kilter beat that sounds like something between a funhouse and a haunted house. Ameer Vann is in a dark place, now unrecognizable to his mother, Merlyn Wood is majestic and merciful, Matt Champion is on a murderous rampage after misogynists, and Dom McLennon caps it off with his typically deft flow, eyes laser-focused on the horizon. Even though BROCKHAMPTON has undeniable swagger when its members are simply having fun passing the mic, this song proves that they have much more momentum—are far more gripping—when they actually have something to say.
Highlights: Kevin vs. Homophobia, Matt vs. Sexism, the beat drop at 1:33.
“What you need a map and backpack just to find the one?
Dora, Dora, come home, you been searchin' too long.”
If you’re looking for a BROCKHAMPTON track to add to your hookup playlist, look no further than this All-American Trash cut (yes, this is pre-SATURATION era). “INFATUATION” is packed with both sensuality and vulnerability, a knockout combination that generates an irresistible jam. The all-American boyband achieves this effect by layering gentle vocal embellishments over an alluring siren-song beat. But it’s not all silk and no substance: the hypnotic, ethereal quality created by combining each voice is offset by the intensely-smart lyricism that fans have come to love and expect from BROCKHAMPTON. This track is a welcome deviation from the seesaw between forlorn reflection and brash, unfettered swagger that characterize most of their music. And it’s sexy as hell.
Highlights: The inescapably easy swing into each chorus, Rodney Tenor’s spitfire wooing (1:08), Merlyn’s whole flower simile (2:00), Joba’s light “ba-ba-dum-bum-ba” (2:28).
“And Waco is far away, I don't even mind
As long as you stay right here, right next to my side.”
When asked on Twitter which SATURATION II track is the best, Abstract responded plainly: “QUEER”. The hook alone (in the right circumstances) could make you cry, but “QUEER” really shines for its ability to transition seamlessly between its sections. Like most BROCKHAMPTON songs, there’s a lot to unpack in the first part alone, from Matt’s battle with depression to Merlyn’s tirade against racism in the corporate world. The song shifts seamlessly into a sentimental second part in which Ryan Beatty assists Kevin in his assertion that closeness isn’t physical, it’s emotional. When listening to one of the parts, it’s easy to sink in and forget entirely that the song used to sound different.
Highlight: Dom reasserting why he’s the most technically sound rapper in the group with a feel-good, head-bobber of a verse.
“What you gonna do when you older?
What you gonna do when you grow?”
One of the most sonically and emotionally powerful songs on SATURATION II, “GAMBA” builds to an intense climax for the album that recedes into the calmer, slower, final two tracks. The thumping bass and haunting autotune contribute to one of the most chilling and riveting tracks of the SATURATION trilogy. It’s less wordy than most BROCKHAMPTON songs, which surprisingly adds weight to this lament about love. Dom leads with his standard, impressive lyricism and word play before handing it off to Abstract and bearface, who both pour their feelings through filtered vocals that are reminiscent of their idol Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak.
Highlights: Shooting an imaginary 3-point shot when Abstract sings “Oooooh, that’s a step-back” (1:10-1:20), bearface’s mellifluous bridge (2:20-2:41).
“Best boy band since One Direction.”
This is BROCKHAMPTON’s anthem. Sirens blaring, they let loose from the get-go. Kevin asks out of the gate: “What are the rules for breakfast today? What are the words I’m forbidden to say?” He begs you to tell him what he can’t do. From then on, it’s no lyrical showcase, but the boys pass around punchy eight-bars like a hot potato. Not every member of BROCKHAMPTON boasts the same: Matt is pugnacious, Merlyn is frisky, and Joba is...scary. But you don’t need to pick apart this song to discover its charm. Take it for what it is: a raucous dance party thrown by some talented friends who know they’ve made it.
Highlights: Romil Hemnani’s insane, jazzy beat, Merlyn saying “Willy” a lot.
“Cash don't last, my friends will ride with me.”
For the first thirty seconds of “GUMMY,” I was convinced that this was BROCKHAMPTON’s attempt at orchestrating a Disney fairytale. That was until the alarm-clock-like buzzer went off, a rude awakening from this dreamlike sequence that throws you directly into an aggressive rap verse that is a healthy mixture of badass and boyish. However, a needling, dissonant synth over a biting beat drives the song and distinguishes it as a quintessential track for this boyband. The song features the contributions of six of the group’s members, each unique in tone and lyrical content to showcase the collective’s outstanding range of talent and camaraderie. But technical elements aside, the song’s vibrant energy is playful, with just the right amount of darkness. 10/10 would recommend blasting this in the car next time you drive down Lake Shore Dr.
Highlights: The rude siren awakening that drops into Kevin’s first verse (0:15), Ameer’s verse, which is lyrically the best in the song (1:28-1:41).
“In the heat of the summer...you know that you should be my boy.”
“SUMMER” was my first exposure to BROCKHAMPTON and there is no better first impression than the silky, angelic voice of “bearface”—the band’s 24-year-old talent from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Even my 59-year-old mom, self-described as “hip” and “29-at-heart,” agrees: the first time I showed her this song, the only commentary she had to offer was “wow, the singer sounds like he’s hot.” Insightful as ever, her eager exclamation touches on the overall vibe this song captures of passion and longing in their purest forms. The alternating repetition of the same lyrical phrase and guitar riff over a swaying backbeat is simple and formulaic, but the way the song’s layers and dynamics build is captivating. The song’s romantic message is emphasized by airy, high harmonies, synth glisses, and a tantalizing guitar riff that becomes progressively more complex and impassioned, only to wrap up on the same note it started. Another great track by the boyband (and another suggested addition to your hookup playlist).
Highlights: The drop from bearface’s verse into a smoothest guitar riff you’ve ever heard (1:00-1:25).
“They said, ‘do you make mistakes or do you make a change?’”
From the get-go, “BLEACH” gets you into your feels as it perfectly deals with insecurity and imperfection. Let’s break this down. The Ryan Beatty hook describes searching for meaning in feelings where, sometimes, there simply isn’t any. Matt writes himself off and decides he’s disposable in the very next verse. In true form, Ameer’s verse feels the most direct and honest: find me another rapper that not only admits shame for his demons, but then in the next four bars admits that he gets right back into bed with them. We’ve all been there, but Ameer’s the one saying it. Lyrics aside, this theme of imperfection is emphasized by the song’s rudimentary-sounding production, like the sound of a tape rewinding that segments the song, and the distorted double-plucked guitar in the chorus.
Highlights: Joba just tryna figure it out (3:29-3:42), and I dare you to not scream-sing along with Kevin right after.
“Twistin’ me up like licorice
Think I need someone who can handle it”
“SWEET” is the musical incarnate of an unapologetic saunter that practically begs for you to proudly swing your hips to its infectious, snake-charmer beat. Matt’s laid-back, effortless intro oozes swagger without the overbearing power of a harsh braggadocio, and Dom, Merlyn, Kevin, and Ameer follow suit with evenly-matched finesse and cool. The song’s real snare, however, lies within Joba’s skillful reflection that pivots between a plucky, neat falsetto of the snide non-believer and a more honest, familiar croon as he unfurls his devil-may-care attitude to reveal a background of hardships. “SWEET” is a declaration of indifference towards the skeptics that masterfully brushes off criticism with ease and leaves doubters with nothing but the traces of a sweet, taunting kiss blown by someone who moved on long ago.
Highlights: The howl at 0:07, the lilt in Dom’s verse that starts at 1:04 and ends with the incredible “Moses with a pen, each line an ocean I can part it at/but that’s too deep,” Joba’s entire verse (3:09-3:52).
“I feel like Ratatouille when I'm whippin’ that cheddar.”
“GOLD” is BROCKHAMPTON at its absolute best. Everything about this song exudes confidence: the killer beat, the deft lyrics, oh and the fact that they are the greatest boyband of all time. It starts with their most iconic hook: “Keep a gold chain on my neck/Fly as a jet, boy, better treat me with respect,” and it only gets better from there. Matt starts the chain of braggadocious verses with a charming swagger. Ameer and Merlyn’s following verses are so boastful they’re almost humorous. And then there’s Dom, who ends the song with what may very well be the best verse any BROCKHAMPTON member has written yet. It’s smart, it’s nimble, it’s full of amazing references (from Mean Girls to Shakespeare) and it’s so damn catchy. All together, “GOLD” is a classic, so go ahead and make a playlist called “Confidence,” then add this song to it 100 times.
Highlights: Matt wearing a box in the music video and Dom’s entire verse, especially the lyric “I just skip on the beat like I’m Pee-Wee Herman” (2:56-3:32).