Review | Kevin Abstract - ARIZONA BABY
Brockhampton’s frontman Kevin Abstract enlists the help of fellow boyband members to deliver his third solo studio album ARIZONA BABY, a raw and artistic commentary of his experiences as a young black LGBT+ member.
Across 11 tracks, the album features vocals from JOBA, Bearface and Dominic Fike; and instrumental help from Romil Hemnani. Though Kevin’s solo work on MTV1987 (2014) and American Boyfriend (2016) have been particularly well received, his career highlights have primarily stemmed from being a founding member of Brockhampton, where they released All-American Trash (2016), the critically acclaimed SATURATION trilogy (2017) and most recently, iridescence (2018).
The album curtain raiser “Big Wheels” demonstrates a heavy influence of Atlanta legend Andre 3000. The song consists of one hard-hitting verse that sets up the sax-heavy outro that smoothly transitions to "Joyride", an upbeat track featuring backing vocals from JOBA. The opening auto-tuned verse is quick paced and has a strong sense of angst that builds up to the enjoyable chorus, and a better-flowing and more melodic second verse. While “Georgia” is a much slower tune, the honest and raw lyrical content stays poignant as Kevin reminisces on his time in high school and Hollywood as a homosexual. "Georgia" is a noticeable highlight of the album, which can largely be attributed to its chorus.
While there are two words that I keep coming back to, I can't help but yet again say "Corpus Christi" is a powerfully and brutally honest track. Named after his home city, the track features references to the fall out with previous Brockhampton member Ameer Vann, and Kevin's troubles with family as his success grew.
“Baby Boy” features vocals from Ryan Beatty, who gives a hopeful touch to the mood of the album. The ending bridge is responsible for almost half of the song, but it’s a beautiful production that slowly mellows out into “Mississippi”. Though the pitched up vocals of "Mississippi" were catchy, the verses were admittedly some of the album's weakest. The production on "Baby Boy" is really what was noticeably great – in fact the project as a whole has some really commendable production.
The first six tracks were released in two separate EPs before ARIZONA BABY's release, leaving only five new tracks. While “Peach” was a great surprise – with guest vocals from Dominic Fike, JOBA and Bearface – the rest of the songs do not live up to the rest of the album and slowly stumble past the finish line.
While ARIZONA BABY blends summer vibes with melancholy lyrics, the themes throughout the album seem to be repeated a little too often in lines, giving an unwelcome sense of familiarity. "Boyer" is an interesting choice as the album's last track, giving a friendly reminder of the Brockhampton sound. However, the absence of the other members is blatantly evident. ARIZONA BABY holds the potential to rocket Kevin Abstract’s solo career as his honesty and relatable raw emotion is something that has and will continue to resonate with fans. Hopefully, 2019 continues to see work from America's favourite boy band, but even more importantly, fans hope to hear solo project from other members, including Merlyn Woods and Matt Champion.
Best songs: Peach, Georgia
Worst song: Use Me