BROCKHAMPTON is always telling us to pay attention to Roberto, so at three in the morning on the day Saturation II was released, I did just that.
On “SCENE 1,” Roberto (Robert Ontenient) is drowning in his own despondent emotions. The catch? He’s drowning in a cereal bowl; he’s drowning in milk.
“I feel like the last months I’ve been sitting on that giant cereal bowl, the one that we used to eat from when we were young / I feel like I am floating in the milk, kind of drowning.”
Upon hearing “en la leche,” my immediate reaction was to revisit “MILK” from the first installment in the Saturation trilogy. After a few re-listens, it became clear that the song’s thesis is the blueprint for Saturation II’s more aggressive sound and harder hitting messages. Where Saturation floundered within itself at times, best captured by disarming swells of Auto-Tuned verse after Auto-Tuned verse, the successor is far more focused and biting. For this growth, we have “MILK” to thank.
"MILK" is the journey of finding yourself in the world. Simultaneously, the song details the emotional repercussions if you don't arrive at this moment of self-acceptance. It opens with Ameer denouncing his past self while owning up to his present demons (“I lost my fucking mind and then I fell in love… I have voices in my head”). Even the beat feels unsure, with these tightly wound and wobbling synths framing up the song. Merlyn’s middle verse is near-campy in its forwardness about his struggles (“Hi, my name is Merlyn, I just applied for food stamps”) while simultaneously bringing a nuanced look at what it means to be accepted.
In Merlyn’s verse, we also begin to see threads of what Roberto was talking about earlier. Roberto opens “SCENE 1” by explaining that he is different from all the “others,” presumably the members of BROCKHAMPTON. In that same breath, Merlyn details the othering he suffered being the only African man on his college campus. Merlyn is a special case as he is the most vocally wrought member of the group, with his strained screams giving body to whatever struggle he or another member has rapped about. In that way, tying his verse to Roberto’s insecurity emphasizes how vexed Roberto must feel as he drowns.
With this gripping tension in mind, we move on to Dom McLennon’s prophetic outro. By paying special attention to his lyrics, we learn that Dom comes to the realization that, when his partner finds herself, the relationship must end. Of course, this is devastating, but from devastation often comes resolution. Here, resolution can be found in the dichotomy of the track and Saturation II: if you don’t find yourself fast enough, you might lose the most important things in your life.
We can tag these sentiments and the cautionary tale in Dom’s verse to the final lines of “SCENE 1” where, Roberto says, “I'd like to repeat it / I miss you, I love you / Piece of shit.” Just prior, Roberto had been sitting in a vat of milk—its odor clinging to his clothes—which represents all of the themes of “MILK” itself. With that in mind, Roberto’s last words harken back to Dom’s own losses, with the final “Piece of shit,” acting as a moment of aggravated self-deprecation. Essentially, Roberto is making an example of himself in “SCENE 1,” prompting listeners to find themselves before their own losses become too heavy.
It is this inward aggression that accounts for all of the energetic highs on Saturation II. Nearly every cut up until track 13, “SWEET,” boasts the same explosive bite as the screaming on Saturation opener “HEAT.” The softer songs follow “SCENE 2,” in which Roberto delivers a beautiful prayer, blessing his family—still likely to be BROCKHAMPTON—with peace and their hearts and needs fulfilled.
Though “SCENE 2” doesn’t reference any prior songs, it still hinges on the final moments of “MILK.” Dom’s verse is instrumental to understanding the frustration Roberto feels, but the conclusion of his verse and Kevin’s dreamy hook (“I gotta get better at being me”) both act as guides to bring Roberto the resolution he expresses on “SCENE 2.”
“Some people have angels, what if only shadows follow you? / And all the ghosts inside that seem to hollow you / The branches of the weeping willow start to swallow you / And then you realize you're exactly where you're supposed to be / The horizon clears, you wipe the tears / And all the skeletons are ready for your story”
The ghosts and shadows speak to previous skits that can be found on Saturation, where Roberto is embroiled in his own self-destruction, thoughts of suicide, and crippling isolation. When Dom mentions coming to terms with embracing who you are and granting yourself peace, this is a momentous type of self-discovery. It's understandable that we must traverse much of Saturation II before arriving at this mature conclusion. In Roberto’s case, he expresses this peace by paying it forward through prayer.
Where Saturation was a swell of anxiety, Saturation II is set in the midst of the storm but with the promise of a silver-lining. On the forthcoming Saturation III, we will likely be dealing with the aftermath.
To that end, Saturation is just as much Roberto’s trilogy as it is ours because we are one in the same. We are all Roberto.