If you’ve ever attended a BROCKHAMPTON concert, then you’ve probably heard the chant “F**k Pitchfork” at some point during the show. This tense relationship between BROCKHAMPTON and the widely acclaimed music publication goes all the way back to BROCKHAMPTON’s debut album, SATURATION.
Ever since BROCKHAMPTON was first formed, the rap collective has branded themselves as an “American boy band,” putting themselves into a genre akin to experimental hip hop. Led by rapper Kevin Abstract, members met through an online forum titled “KanyeToThe.” Currently, BROCKHAMPTON is made up of 13 artists including Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, and Bearface.
Pitchfork is a popular music publication that covers industry news and reviews new music, in addition to hosting an annual music festival in Chicago. The publication is known for rating albums on a scale from 1–10 and providing a critique reflecting that rating.
Pitchfork rated BROCKHAMPTON’s debut album, SATURATION, a 6.5. Their second album, Saturation II, was rated 7.2, and Saturation III was rated 7.5. Additionally, their album iridescence was rated 6.6 and GINGER was rated 6.5.
In Pitchfork’s review of SATURATION, they criticized the technical skills of BROCKHAMPTON members, simply citing that, “No member is a particularly good rapper, but they make up for their weakness when they ride the pristine beats with exuberance.” To back this statement up, Pitchfork particularly targeted Kevin Abstract, comparing his “naivety” on slower tracks to his solo album, American Boyfriend. Meanwhile, the style of BROCKHAMPTON’s music was criticized in Pitchfork’s review of Saturation II, in which they stated that BROCKHAMPTON was still “awkwardly straddling the hip–hop and pop worlds.”
Out of all of BROCKHAMPTON’s albums, Saturation III received the highest rating. The collection of BROCKHAMPTON Pitchfork reviews up until this album alluded to the opinion that their biggest problem with the band’s music was that they seemed like just a group of talented artists who were rapping side by side, and not staged together. Specifically for this album, Pitchfork cited that there wasn’t enough bass over the course of Saturation III. In response to their review, Kevin Abstract tweeted: “pitchfork stop reviewing our shit, damn.”
Between Saturation III and iridescence, BROCKHAMPTON let go of one of their main rappers, Ameer Vann, following sexual assault allegations. In Pitchfork’s review of iridescence, they emphasized Van’s noticeable absence. iridescence was cited as the group’s “most pummeling album…with its rappers and producers biting off more than they can chew.”
Similarly, the opening paragraph of Pitchfork’s review of GINGER, the band’s most recent album, made note of Ameer Vann’s absence and called the album “compelling but disjointed.” The criticisms of BROCKHAMPTON’s previous albums are repeated over and over again: The group is talented individually, but scattered. BROCKHAMPTON albums never seem cohesive enough for Pitchfork’s approval.
BROCKHAMPTON fans on Reddit argue that Pitchfork often came out with reviews of BROCKHAMPTON’s albums much too quickly after their release—sometimes just three hours later. Most importantly, there is general agreement among fans that Pitchfork just doesn’t understand BROCKHAMPTON’s experimental style, which features harsher instrumental tones and a wider variety of rap personalities than conventional groups.
Recently, artists like Lana Del Rey have also made headlines for lashing out at their critics. When NPR writer Ann Powers described Lana Del Rey's lyrics in her newest album Norman Fucking Rockwell! as "uncooked," Lana Del Rey tweeted the article with her reaction. "Here’s a little sidenote on your piece – I don’t even relate to one observation you made about the music. There’s nothing uncooked about me. To write about me is nothing like it is to be with me. Never had a persona. Never needed one. Never will."
Artists have a right to respond to criticism from music publications, especially if they feel like their work has been largely misinterpreted. Opinions regarding music are largely subjective, and a bad review from a well–known company could make or break an album's reputation. For established artists like Del Rey and BROCKHAMPTON, though, it can be debated how much effect negative criticism actually has on them. Regardless, with the digital age making music criticism more immediate and publicized than ever before, artists have to continue to learn how to navigate through it all.