Redefining Boyband: Who is Brockhampton?
Brockhampton, a boyband originally founded by high school friends in San Marcos, Texas and later expanded via the online community r/KanyeToThe, has been on the come-up for the better part of a year. After releasing two albums this year alone with a third on the way, a sold out North American tour, and the news that their feature length film (currently referred to as “Saturation movie”) has just wrapped, Brockhampton’s motivation is quickly turning heads in the hip-hop world. This is largely due to their inner circle handling every step of the entire production personally. Consisting of roughly 15 members varying in roles from performance to production to web development, there is no shortage of people to get the job done coming out of their shared household near Van Nuys, California where they are now based. Brockhampton has put every step of the creative process under one roof, meaning their ability to put out what they want, when they want is simplified to the point of extremity.
Leading the charge is rapper/vocalist/director, Kevin Abstract. Coming off the heels of his second solo record American Boyfriend and Brockhampton’s mixtape All-American Trash released just last year, Abstract and his band mates quickly garnered attention from the network Viceland, landing a documentary series on Abstract and the group titled, “American Boyband.” Releasing their debut album Saturation I the day after the premier of “American Boyband,” they quickly became known for their blistering fast release schedule with the goal of releasing the entire Saturation Trilogy within the remaining six months of 2017. Releasing 5 singles (with accompanying music videos) alongside both Saturation I and II, and recording a great deal of the demos for Saturation III on their tour bus during “Jennifer’s Tour” in September, Brockhampton effectively saturated the market for alternative hip-hop with their sound. Effectively utilizing their continued exposure through Viceland and hip-hop news media outlet, Pigeons & Planes. Their approach to the world of hip-hop is one of the things that has situated Brockhampton as a 21st century group of young artists, harnessing brand building strategies pioneered by hip-hop artists born out of the digital age much like themselves. Things like viral marketing, limited merchandise drops, and direct communication via Twitter with their fan base (affectionately nicknamed “dumbasses” by Abstract) quickly gave rise to a dedicated online following. Though they have changed up their previous multi-single marketing model for the release of Saturation III, fans have been supportive of the decision often citing their concerns over the health and well-being of the members.
In terms of members, Brockhampton has come to be known for their respective personalities the bandmates have both online and off. With a team of producers including: Q3 (Kiko Merley and Jabari Manwa), Romil Hemnani, Robert “Roberto” Ontinient and bearface. (Ciaran McDonald). The beats coming out of the “Brockhampton Factory” are as varied as the members themselves, inspired by the likes of Pharrell (his N. E. R. D. records visible on the walls of a bedroom where they work and record), No I. D. and Kanye West. The more vocal members like Ameer Vann rap about the troubles associated with discovering one’s own blackness in the American south, Dom McLennon often speaking out about his own mental illness and social anxiety, Merlyn Wood often shouts his experiences with education and the stigma of race, and Matt Champion speaks out on the negative treatment of women in a culture chiefly defined by the macho man stereotype that Brockhampton attempts to combat with their own work and public image. The verses and message they convey, coupled with the often auto-tuned vocals of Abstract or rapper/vocalist/producer JOBA, rounds out the sound of Brockhampton wearing their influences and opinions on their collective sleeve. The 15 member roster also includes the more “behind the scenes” roles of the group such as: videographer/editor Ashlan Grey, art/creative director Henlock “HK” Silenshi, clothing designer Nick Lenzini, and VFX engineer Kevin Doan.
Brockhampton has established themselves as focused on writing records that balance the trunk rattling rap anthems of the mid 2000s like the Saturation I track “BOYS”, hardcore 1990s underground flavoured social commentary on “JUNKY,” and wordplay-laden head bobbing posse tracks like “STAR” and “SWEET.” Brockhampton spends a good deal of time telling listeners that their uniquity and drive is what makes them a force to be reckoned with. With members varying in race, sexuality, and background, rapper McLennon states through auto-tuned vocals on the song “FAKE” they’ve turned “weird shit into a commodity” so to speak. Much like Odd Future in its earliest days, Brockhampton plays with their own self-ascribed “misfit-ism” often recounting the times in their lives where they were cast as outsiders, outlaws, or considered out of the norm by their own families. What Brockhampton attempts to communicate to their fans is that there truly is no backseat in the Brockhampton bus, everybody in the group seems to be riding shotgun with a hand on the steering wheel and with a collective eye on the road ahead. Making music that communicates issues of race, sexuality, mental health, identity, and rape culture.
Brockhampton’s, third and final installment of the Saturation Trilogy, Saturation III, is to be released Friday, December 15th 2017. Abstract has explicitly stated via Twitter that Saturation III will be Brockhampton’s final studio album but the group is not to be considered disbanded. Brockhampton’s “Love Your Parents Tour” begins January 16th 2018.
By Maguire Stevens