Brockhampton is an emerging rap collective that has gained much traction and popularity this year with the release of their debut album “Saturation.” This release received critical acclaim and garnered a loyal, growing fan base. They followed this up with a second album, “Saturation II,” only two months later, once again receiving critical acclaim and increasing their recognition. Created through the use of an online Kanye West forum, Brockhampton is rooted into the internet, already showing the progressive and modern nature of the collective.
The group consists of 15 members of different backgrounds and musical styles, with a multitude of diverse sounds in their music which melds together perfectly. While they share more similarities with the likes of Odd Future and Wu-tang Clan, other rap collectives, they choose to consider themselves a “boyband”, drawing more self-comparisons to groups like One Direction and the Backstreet Boys. They do in fact draw influence from Odd Future, with rapper Kevin Abstract, the group’s founder, crediting Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean with inspiring him, stating, “I definitely identified with Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. That was a boyband to me, even though they were a rap collective to everyone else. That’s where the standard was for me. That was my perfect.”
So why is a group who is clearly a rap collective so focused on being identified as a boy band? According to Ameer Vann, an original member of the group, the label of “rapper” brings artistic limitations, since a certain style or vision is expected along with it. The idea is to be pop stars since they are not limited by the boundaries of any genre and can progress in any artistic direction they see fit. “You can only get so far as a rap collective. Just by putting the name ‘rap’ on yourself, you’ve set a limit—but a pop star can do anything.”
For Kevin Abstract, Brockhampton is about breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. When you picture a typical American boy band, a picture-perfect group of teens with nice hair, pretty faces, and pitch-perfect voices, perfectly engineered for corporate success. The lack of diversity or personal and relatable song topics present in boybands is strange since they are supposed to appeal to the most people possible. Consisting of 15 members of different races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations, Brockhampton smashes the image of the classic boyband model. Kevin Abstract stated, “I wanted to redefine what it means to be a boy band and just give other kids out there who look like us someone to identify with. If they want to make a boy band, they can now do that because not every boy band looks like One Direction or ’N Sync or Backstreet Boys.” Their wacky, unique personalities, appearances, and videos represent this idea of breaking down boyband stereotypes, providing listeners with a group that makes more sense in appealing to a majority of Americans, since America is a diverse melting pot of people of different cultures, beliefs, etc. Brockhampton’s low budget videos and insistence to remain their own collective, independent from the influence of record companies, challenges the corporate aspect normally seen in American boy bands.
In addition to all of this, their lyrical themes of self-acceptance, accepting one’s own sexuality, racial inequality, and self-improvement are more relatable to American listeners, since these are issues of the time. To them, there is nothing more American than this, thus going against the preconceived notions of the messages typical American boy band would spread. Kevin Abstract’s manager, Christian Clancy, explains “These guys represent, to me, actual America. They represent the point of it all. Kevin is a black gay kid from Texas who has been ostracized his whole life by people who are ‘patriotic.’ Right? The timing becomes important because so many people need that champion, who feels the same way.”
In conclusion, it is clear that Brockhampton is bringing fresh, new sounds in the rap genre and new ways to view popstars and American boy bands. They are breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and bringing about a progressive change in the music industry that is reflective of the current times. They will continue to rise in popularity and garner more attention, as they just completed their first tour, consisting of multiple sold out shows, and are set to release their third and final album of the “Saturation” trilogy in December 2017. Fans and critics alike are excited to see how they continue to progress as artists and influence the world of music as they saturate it with their sounds and ideas.