While some may bewail the recent rash of synthetic pop groups, created via TV competitions and sponsored by corporations, Brockhampton prove that there is still room in the digital age for groups based around shared passions and interest.
In 2010, Kevin Abstract called for a formation of a band on the Kanye West fan forum, KanyeToThe.Com. AliveSinceForever was then formed in a line-up that included Dom McLennon and former member Ameer Vann. This group failed, but eventually produced Brockhampton.
After their genre-busting mixtape All-American Trash in 2016, the group went from strength to strength with an incredible breakthrough year in 2017, producing a trilogy of albums: Saturation I, Saturation II and Saturation III. All were released through Brockhampton’s own label and media company, Question Everything, Inc. In just six months, the group released 49 tracks, two stand-alone singles, and a boxset that included a slew of demos. At the time, the 15 members lived in one house in South-Central LA which they call the ‘Brockhampton Factory’, where all but one of the tracks were recorded.
In the very short time since their formation, Brockhampton have created a cult following with talent flowing to the brim, but not without controversy. To the lazy eye and ear, many could and have made comparisons between Brockhampton’s and Odd Future’s rise circa 2012, but there is one clear and obvious distinction between them – the strength and the depth that the Brockhampton roster possesses.
This depth perhaps originates in the diversity of the group’s members, which themselves vary wildly from track to track. While Kevin Abstract is undoubtedly the group’s
lodestar, the band have also featured a huge number of other vocal members, including JOBA, Merlyn Woods, Matt Champion, and Dom McLennon. One such artist, Irishman Bearface, moved to California just to be in the band. Aside from Abstract, the other consistent presence is Romil Hemnani, who was involved in the production of all but eleven songs in the Saturation trilogy.
Brockhampton very much pride themselves as being hip-hop for the future. They’re very much against the homophobia and misogyny that could be found in many a hip-hop song. For this reason, Ameer Vann – a former prominent rapper in the group, was kicked out of the band in May 2018 after sexual assault allegations hung over his head. A statement was released where Brockhampton stated they sorry “for not speaking up sooner”, followed by a cancellation of their tour. Much like their sound, the versatile subject-matter explored by the group makes them incredibly relevant. Themes like depression, poverty, and the white commodification of black culture are paired with the norms of hip-hop where braggadocious lyrics allude to drug abuse, sex, as well as being nouveau riche.
Songs like ‘SWEET’ sum up the multi-faceted nature of Brockhampton with thoughtprovoking lyrics juxtaposed with upbeat and rowdy production. Merlyn explores the experience of an immigrant in a low socioeconomic area as well as calling out the phenomenon of the rich kids trying to act like they’re working-class. JOBA teeters from nostalgic character-driven falsetto to melodic rapping where he reminisces about his upbringing, whilst slating the teachers and acquaintances that doubted his talent. The sonics almost seem to create distinct visuals for the listener.
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve had Brockhampton’s latest effort Iridescence on repeat and boy this KNOCKS! Recorded in a ten-day stay in London following sold-out shows in KOKO, a regrouped and redirected group addressed their newfound weight as the hottest property in music. This is only the start – so let’s thank the rap gods for gifting us with years of future amazing albums!