Get to know the Internet’s boy band.
Not just a rap group or record label - what is BROCKHAMPTON?
A self-proclaimed American boy band, BROCKHAMPTON is actually most similar to a creative collective or company. The members (which hit double digits), led by their founder Kevin Abstract, dabble in a variety of arts ranging from production to photography to graphic design, although they are most well-known for their rapid ascent as a talented group of hip-hop artists. And even though their music is nowhere near traditional rap or R&B, the genre-mixing collective has commanded the attention of the hip-hop community throughout 2017 due to their explosive, Odd Future-esque style and lyrics that tear apart any pre-conceived notions about masculinity in hip-hop.
In early June the group released their proper debut album Saturation to critical acclaim after numerous viral singles, including the hits “HEAT” and “STAR.” At the same time the series “American Boyband” premiered on Viceland, chronicling Abstract’s summer tour with BROCKHAMPTON. In lead-up to today's album release, Saturation II, the group has put out three new singles, “GUMMY,” “SWAMP” and “JUNKY," continuing to build up an expectation about the quality and quantity of music that a fan might expect from the collective. They've given us high expectations, to be clear.
Originally part of the ever-expanding hip-hop group ALIVESINCEFOREVER, Abstract (one of ASF’s founders) decided that the group wasn’t going in the direction he wanted it to and left the party, offering any ASF members a place in the new collective he called BROCKHAMPTON. The returning members, including Ameer Vann and Dom McLennon, were joined by new recruits lifted from the famous hip-hop forum KanyeToThe, and together they all moved down to San Marcos, Texas to follow their shared pursuits of musical success and creativity.
Their big break was winning the first VFiles Loud contest in 2015, earning them a professionally directed music video for their song “Dirt” and a distribution deal through Fool’s Gold Records. In 2016 they released their debut mixtape All-American Trash to generally positive reception. Members of the group continued to come and go, eventually bringing their total to 15 by the time they moved to LA and began working on their breakout project Saturation.
Who are the current members?
On vocal duty you’ll catch Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Matt Champion and JOBA as the usual faces of BROCKHAMPTON’s music. Behind the scenes, JOBA (who also does the engineering) is joined by Bearface (hailing from Ireland), Romil Hemnani, and the duo Q3 (Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merely) on production. Then there’s the creative crew: HK, Ashlan Grey and Robert Ontenient (who fans will recognize as the recurring character Roberto from their music videos) all assist in the creative direction of the group by bringing each member’s visions to life. Rounding out the group, you've got 4 Strikes (Chris & Kelly Clancy, Brian Washington) and Jon Nunes, who all run management for the team.
If you only listen to the first half of Saturation, then you’ll probably write BROCKHAMPTON off as another young rap entourage. But once the song “TRIP” comes on, the group truly begins showing off their versatility. Minimalistic beats, singing, auto-tune crooning, friendly lyrics - it’s almost the opposite of the album’s opener “HEAT.” They do this again on songs like “SWIM” and “FACE,” the latter of which is best described as old school R&B that would fit in on Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” And “WASTE,” the album’s final track, isn’t even hip-hop at all - it’s the Irish Bearface singing an alt-rock ballad over a solo electric guitar.
Throwing out masculinity:
Most hip-hop groups nowadays definitely wouldn’t pick the term “boy band” over “rap crew.” BROCKHAMPTON, conversely, are completely unafraid of just being a collective of friends that bring out the best in each other. They openly address their insecurities, either fixing them while collaborating on a song in the studio, or sometimes throwing them straight on wax. Most notably, you’ll often hear Abstract addressing his sexuality and how he can’t come out to his family, but also spitting playful lines about giving head or the fan favorite lyric from “STAR”: “I don’t fuck with no white boys, unless the nigga Shawn Mendes.”
Saturation II, other projects and Flog Gnaw:
With Saturation II having just impacted, you can now listen to it here, and at the same time, you can prepare for even more music. The group has already gone ahead and announced Saturation III, and in a move that most major labels would probably not approve of, they even released the single for Saturation III ("FOLLOW") mid roll-out for Saturation II.
Be sure to check out some of the member’s solo efforts: Abstract released his second album American Boyfriend last year (landing him a spot as the opener for pop/alt-rock band The Neighborhood on their tour), and each of the group’s vocalists and producers have numerous tracks on their Soundcloud pages. And if you managed to cop tickets to this year’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, do not miss out on seeing BROCKHAMPTON’s music festival debut.