From NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys to the Jonas Brothers, One Direction, and 5 Seconds of Summer, the conventional notion of the “boyband” is ever-evolving. However, BROCKHAMPTON, the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest boyband,” is unlike anything seen in musical history. They are stunning fans with their new concept of the boyband and seem to be on the rise indefinitely.
The 14-member rap collective, led by Kevin Abstract, was officially formed in 2015. The members met online, largely through a Kanye West forum, and began making music together, eventually moving to Texas together in 2014 to take the group to the next level.
In an interview with Sway Calloway of Sway’s Universe, Abstract said, “At first it was just, if you wanted to be a part of it you were a part of it...and over the years we just, like, trimmed the fat. It was, like, 40 people at first.”
With such a large group of artists involved, how does collaboration work? Speaking to the group’s sense of teamwork, member Dom McLennon says, “The mic’s always hot. No one is not allowed to touch anything in the studio.” The band considers the amount of members more fun than overwhelming, as each member brings their own identities and experiences to the table. Member Jabari Manwa cites Kanye West as a source of inspiration for the group, especially his attention to detail. He also credits the influence of the different cultures that all the members come from. Manwa himself is from the Caribbean, while Merlyn Wood is originally from Ghana and Bearface is from Ireland.
The band’s first EP, ALL-AMERICAN TRASH, was the precursor for SATURATION I, II, and III, a series of three studio albums. Although each song is unexpected and different from the last, SATURATION I, II, and III have some structure. Bearface’s vocals are featured on unique slow tracks that close out each album ("WASTE," "SUMMER," "TEAM") and give the listener more of the popular music feel and balance beat-heavy songs like "QUEER."
In May of 2018, Ameer Vann, an original member of the group, was accused by several women of sexual misconduct. BROCKHAMPTON removed him from the group and released a statement apologizing for his actions. Their album PUPPY was scheduled to be released that June, but the group decided that they didn’t want to release an album with Vann’s tracks on it. Without them, the album was incomplete. Thus, a new album, iridescence, was born, and was released in Sept. 2018.
The intimacy and personality of their latest release, GINGER, is evident even from the album art. The subdued colors and the embrace of the two men on the cover conveys a sense of naturalism missing from the art of the SATURATION series and iridescence. “SUGAR” is the album’s most popular song, but “VICTOR ROBERTS” is particularly interesting.
Victor Roberts is a friend of member Dom McLennon, and raps about a true story from his childhood. McLennon calls Roberts “part of the extended family," disclosing that Roberts’ family situation prevented him from being able to fully pursue music. McLennon heard his rap and immediately wanted to incorporate it into GINGER.
“I think that’s one of the most important things you can do as an artist is pass the f*cking mic sometimes,” says McLennon.
Kevin Abstract has made a unique contribution by being open about his sexuality in songs like “JUNKY.” His lyrics and presence reflect the need for representation of LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in hip hop.
Overall, the component of BROCKHAMPTON that sets it apart the most (and what makes it a band rather than a collective) is their brotherhood. When asked if they would ever consider including women in the group long term, they were open to it, but member Joba pointed out that the tight-knit relationship between the group just naturally turned out to be between all males.
Lillian Benoit, LSOE ‘23, expressed that the reason BROCKHAMPTON is growing in popularity as time goes on is “because people are finding a greater interest in artists that experiment with music...each of their songs is so unique and is a medley of so many styles and sounds.” Her personal favorite songs are “FABRIC” and “GAMBA.”
No one knows exactly what the future holds for BROCKHAMPTON. It used to be common knowledge that this was a long term project for them, but recently in an interview, the band said they knew what the lineup of the rest of their albums is going to look like. According to Kevin Abstract’s Twitter, this doesn’t mean they’re breaking up anytime soon. “We just know how many more albums we wanna make. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of and I’m stoked on it. We all are,” a recent tweet reads. Fortunately, this means at least a few more albums from the band.
Whether you were already a fan or this article has piqued your interest, BROCKHAMPTON is coming to the Agganis Arena in Boston on Nov. 24. You can decide for yourself whether they truly are the world’s greatest boyband.
English and communication major. WZBC 90.3 FM DJ. Lover of the Midwest, reading, and attempting to be outdoorsy.