With the largest Twitter following of any other band member, BROCKHAMPTON founding member Kevin Abstract has shown that he can attract just as much attention on his own as he can in a group. Many fans of BROCKHAMPTON believe that Kevin Abstract would be the first to break up the boy band. However, his April 25 solo release, ARIZONA BABY indicates he is not there yet, but may be on his way. His latest album is full of the slow, catchy beats Abstract is known for, but lets himself dive deeper into personal themes than his group work does.
A big part of Abstract’s life is his struggle with being gay, which he continues to explore in his latest release. His song “American Problem” reflects this. As it opens with ringing bells and angelic whispers, the song turns into a reflection of him as the “American Problem” by being gay and his principal calling him “a flaming f----t” behind his back.
Kevin Abstract and Frank Ocean share many similarities in music style and experiences as queer, black men, but Abstract pushes that theme more often in his music. A good example of this on the album is the song “Crumble” where he explores his black identity. It is chill with high-pitched whispers and incorporates many references to other black artists.
A shift from this iconic style comes from the song “Joyride.” As the song name suggests, it’s positive and upbeat. It takes the listener on a musical roller-coaster jumping back and forth between fast rap and a slow echoing voice. This is definitely a song that will make listeners move.
In “Corpus Christi,” Abstract focuses on issues that have arisen as he’s become more famous. Abstract’s hometown is Corpus Christi, and as such pulls on a lot of the relationships that began there but he continues to have, such as his sister and his boyfriend. This is an apologetic song as Abstract says “I think about the people that surround me and how I let ‘em down.” It is a unique step away from Abstract’s traditional sorrow-filled songs on being gay to him truly recognizing his faults after fame and apologizing for them.
ARIZONA BABY as an album is a cut above the rest and shows the progression Abstract has made as an artist. However, it can not compare to his work with and the albums released by BROCKHAMPTON because they are a group and thus have a larger toolbox of skills to draw from.
ARIZONA BABY allows the listener to develop alongside Abstract through his own reflections. It is a beautiful piece of work and provides a greater level of acceptance of failure and struggle for the listener. However, his solo music still feels like a less developed version of a BROCKHAMPTON album, and until he can find a way to change that, BROCKHAMPTON will still be around — and maybe that is a good thing.