Kevin Abstract Bears It All on ARIZONA BABY

Image courtesy of Ashlan Grey

Image courtesy of Ashlan Grey

By Grace Lemon

Kevin Abstract, probably known by most people as the frontman for “America’s Favorite Boy Band” Brockhampton, has finally released his first full album since 2016. The project was dropped through sets of 3-track EPs, each one feeling like a chapter out of Abstract’s personal diary. ARIZONA BABY is an album that is both important and influential, standing out for its intimate honesty and Abstract’s ability to pour unfiltered emotion into every lyric. His words are raw and biting, pairing with catchy beats and instrumentals to create tracks that are both thematically powerful and enjoyable to listen to.

“Peach” is by far my favorite track of the album, in part because of the paired music video and the vocal features from Dominic Fike, Joba, and bearface. Though Fike is the only non-member of Brockhampton, his vocals naturally belong and contribute to the infectious melody on the song. The dreamy, sweet vocals of Fike, Joba, and Bearface blend beautifully with Abstract’s stripped-down bars to create a mellow honesty that drips from every word. Everything about this track is warm and calm, but it still carries the same genuine emotional intimacy found in Abstract’s more intense rap verses. The video is composed of clips of the guys essentially messing around in the streets, and it gave me an overwhelming sense of nostalgia from growing up in the suburbs and trying to create entertainment out of boredom. This could definitely be a track of the summer, perfect for driving aimlessly around in the hazy summer heat, but it is also a stand-alone masterpiece that I could play on repeat at any time of the year.

“Baby Boy” is another one of my favorite tracks, and reminds me of some of his material off American Boyfriend with a fresh twist.  For all Brockhampton fans, this track is instantly sentimental because it features the “Let’s Get Married” promotional demo from an unreleased Brockhampton album. This snippet, which serves as the chorus for this track, is performed by Ryan Beatty, who is an associated act with Brockhampton. The vocals are layered and electronic without sounding overproduced, and the lofi guitar-focused instrumentals cast a dreamlike spell over the entire song. The video opens with a clip of Drew Phillips and Enya Umanzor, best friends and content creators who are known for their parody sketches and sarcastic comedy. For those who are fans of Drew and Enya’s normal videos (if you aren’t, you should be), the awkward and honest way that Drew tries to put genuine words to their platonic love adds an even deeper layer of intimacy to the track as a whole, as we are not used to seeing this vulnerable side of their friendship. Abstract’s videos have the ability to take each of his tracks to another level, putting visuals to the feelings that he brings out through his words.

I was definitely drawn to the softer tracks of this album for their ability to bring listeners intimately into the depths of Abstract’s mind, but I have to give special mention to some of his more intense verses. “Corpus Christi” especially stood out to me lyrically, with Abstract pouring out all of his emotions about his recurring struggles in a sort of stream-of consciousness style reflection on his life and his anxieties about letting down the people he loves. On “Big Wheels”,  Abstract is aggressive and unapologetically honest about his sexuality, and its placement as the first track of the record is a punch in the face to the lack of queer acceptance in the hip-hop industry. The entirety of ARIZONA BABY serves as an inside look into Kevin Abstract’s personal journey, and the blend of different energies and emotions in every track make each listen a fresh and fulfilling experience.

MusicSteven Norwalk