SWEET: Brockhampton’s Incredible Uprising
Making sense of musics most exciting act
“Anybody wanna make a band?”
-Ian Simpson’s post on the KanyeToThe.com
Damn!! Brockhampton’s iridescence just hit number one on the Billboard #200. The number one album in the country…but let me back it up.
A year ago, I attended the 2017 edition of Camp Flog Gnaw. There were a lot of acts on my list of artists to watch, but the one who peaked everyone’s interest, especially mine, was Brockhampton—a group of kids from San Marcos, Texas. A morphing of Odd Future, Kanye West, M.I.A and One Direction; I know, you’d have to be a mad scientist to throw those ingredients together. Luckily for Brockhampton (and us), Kevin Abstract is the mastermind who’s breaking boundaries with his new age boy band by taking advantage of the Internet and the readily available tools at our disposal for creation.
Brockhampton’s Camp Flog Gnaw performance was memorable. The group had already been around for two years and had been prolific since its incarnation. Of all places to form a group, Kevin went to a Kanye West fan forum to do so. All the way back in 2010, Kevin asked a simple question, “Anybody wanna make a band?.” While initially posted in 2010, it wasn’t till 2012, when Kevin properly formed a group called ALIVESINCEFOREVER. Early Brockhampton members, such as Dom McLennon, Romil Hemnani, and Ameer Vann, joined Kevin in their quest to make something big. After Kevin released an album titled MTV1987, ALIVESINCEFOREVER revamped as Brockhampton, adding the current members to their roster, such as Joba, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, and Bearface. Rodney Tenor was another early member who left due to creative differences.
Brockhampton dropped ALL-AMERICAN TRASH in 2016, their debut mixtape. Soon after Kevin released his final solo album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story (despite his overwhelming popularity, Kevin claims that he will not be releasing any more solo material). Matt Champion would release his only solo project titled Harley in 2017. Since then, there hasn’t been a solo album from any members of Brockhampton. The group’s lives would change when they released Saturation, the first in the trilogy of the same name. Some hype had brewed due to most of the individual members having buzz, most notably Kevin, who had toured with The Neighbourhood. Not to mention, the group had a show with VICELAND titled American Boyband. The show debuted the day before the release of Saturation.
- a pop group composed of attractive young men whose music and image are designed to appeal primarily to a young teenage audience.
While plenty of good things were happening for this boy band, it was the push by a YouTuber that really set the group off for success. Anthony Fantano, a.k.a. theneedledrop, reviewed Saturation. Notorious for his high standards, he uncharacteristically gave the project a 9/10. Many music fans became aware of the group, and began championing them as one of the most exciting acts in hip-hop. Their uniqueness and quirky, sometimes goofy social media presence, helped gain them fans all over the globe. Considering themselves a boy band, while Brockhampton doesn’t meet the qualifications for the above definition, the appropriation of a moniker that was once considered whack is now quite charming. Brockhampton did things differently, and their individuality set them apart from the rest.
It’s impossible not to notice the creative output, putting material out at a head-spinning rate. I began paying attention as I saw their name over social media and YouTube. They released multiple videos right before the release of Saturation II. I remember seeing the videos to “Lamp” and “Gummy,” and I was instantly hooked on their take of alternative hip-hop. Shortly after, the video to “Swamp” came out, and I was shocked. It was incredible to see a group pump out quality material in such a short amount of time. Two weeks later, Saturation II came out. For me, I enjoyed it more than its predecessor. Their blend of sonics was impressive, and I was officially hooked.
Seeing them live for the first time was amazing, and I remember their merch selling out—some “hypebeast” kid almost started crying because he didn’t get a jumpsuit *real talk. That’s when I really began to witness the magnitude of the group take form. They were already big with three releases in a two-year span, and the year wasn’t over.
Their performance was legendary; they had golf carts on stage, and they came out in their blue makeup with the jumpsuits that were selling out. They opened with “Heat,” and the place went off. Mosh pit opened up, and I found myself uncontrollably jumping into it—it was a youthful performance. It reminded me of those old Tyler and OF shows. It was exciting and refreshing, but more than anything, it was fun.
After Camp Flog Gnaw, my friend and I really became die-hard fans. We had planned to see them at their December shows at the El Rey, which ended up selling out three shows in one day, and neither of us got tickets. Three sold out shows? They had only been releasing music as a group for two years. It’s insane.
The group had taken to Twitter to say that Saturation III would be the final album. Later they reiterated that it was the last in the Saturation era, a trilogy. The day before the release of Saturation III, they announced that their fourth album would be called Team Effort. After Saturation III, the group began to hit the pavement by touring and recording, which included a huge venue—it was announced that they would play Coachella on the heels of their next album in March. However, according to them, they “spoke to God” who told them not to release Team Effort in March. The same day they announced that not only the title of the next album would be changed to Puppy, but also to be released in the summer of 2018. The following week they announced they had signed a deal with RCA Records for somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15 million dollars. Things were popping off for Brockhampton, stunning audiences and critics at Coachella ’18, making fans out of the entire industry. Then, things almost fell apart.
The group took a hit when founding member Ameer Vann had received allegations of mental, verbal and sexual abuse. While he admitted and apologized for the mental and verbal abuse, Brockhampton kicked him out, stating that they “were lied to.” To this day, we don’t know the true story (and probably never will), but in their recent documentary, The Longest Summer In America, they revealed that they were told to “break-up” or it seemed like the dream might come to an end. This setback was emotional, as Ameer was next to Kevin, the face of Brockhampton.
They canceled their tour and went back home to regroup. Then, they went to Hawaii to record, and went a little quiet in June—only revealing they were to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on June 20, 2018. This was to be their first major appearance without Ameer on national television (they appeared in Boston without Vann in an emotional performance before canceling the rest of the tour). They brought the house down with “TONYA,” dubbed to be the first single on their new album, The Best Years of Our Lives.
They debuted their Beats 1 radio show called Things We Lost in the Fire, releasing three more singles titled “1999 Wildfire,” “1998 Truman,” and “1997 Diana.” The tracks exist in their own universe outside of The Best Years Of Our Lives. As their tour continued, they ended up in England before finishing their tour in Australia and New Zealand. Spontaneously, they decided to book the legendary Abbey Road Studios for ten days where iridescence was born—the first in the trilogy to The Best Years of Our Lives. The album came out September 21st of this year.
Beforehand, my On Wax co-writer, Dyllan E., and I went to see the group’s documentary, The Longest Summer in America. I was excited to see it, as I was interested in seeing a more personal view of the group. They left no stone unturned, and I was amazed at their honesty—there wasn’t anything sugar-coated. They talked about their come up and how they were almost invisible before the glass shattered. Ameer was a brother to them, and although it was necessary, it’s hard to disown family you love. However, they bounced back, and iridescence was an excellent return to form.
It’s funny how much more mature iridescence sounds with only a year since their last album. It’s possible that the maturity could have come from working in one of the most legendary studios, where records like A Hard Day’s Night, The Dark Side of the Moon, OK Computer, and Blonde were made; or most likely it came from the group going to hell and back in such a short amount of time. The most mature thing someone can do after rough times is to keep moving forward, and that’s precisely what Brockhampton did.
There’s technically 14 current members of Brockhampton, whether its rappers, vocalists, art directors, management, etc. Here’s a breakdown of the more active and visible members of the Brockhampton group:
Founder, defacto leader, face of the collective, and the first openly Gay rapper: Abstract, who seems to begrudgingly step into the limelight. He is going to be a star.
When it comes to pure rapping, McLennon is probably the most fundamentally talented one of the group. He has bars, straight up. He’s consistently delivered the most memorable and meaningful verses of the collective.
The Song: “New Orleans”
Saturation III was really Champion’s coming to form. A mixture of straight bars and soft vocals, Champion is the perfect example of what Brockhampton is: everything.
The Song: “Gold”
Pure energy, Merlyn might be the most entertaining member of Brockhampton both inside the music and outside as a personality. Merlyn dropped out of the University of Texas as an architect major, then picked up and moved to California to “join a boy band.”
The song: “Milk”
The Song: “Face”
Joba brings a little bit of everything to Brockhampton. Searing heartbreaking vocals to White boy raps and live instrumentals, Joba’s emo.
The newest to the group out of the current collective is Bearface, who is an artist and producer from Belfast, Ireland. Like Joba, Bearface plays live instruments on stage, sings (and kind of raps); he brings the angst.
The Song: “Tonya”
Unless you’re a hardcore Brockhampton fan, you’ve never seen or heard from Romil, and there’s a reason: Romil is the mad scientist of Brockhamton’s sonics. He is largely responsible for most of the production. If you watch him in an interview, it’s hard not to like Romil (much like the rest of Brockhampton)—the kid is just happy to be getting paid to do what he loves.
The Song: All of them.
I couldn’t be happier for Brockhampton when I heard they had the number one record in the US. The group constantly breaking down barriers, sonically and morally…To think it all started with a post in a Kanye West fan forum. I’m excited to see how the rest of this new trilogy sounds and equally excited to see them at Camp Flog Gnaw again this year. The group has come so far in such a short amount of time, and I’m sure they’ll only get bigger.
Cheers to the best boy band in the world!