By: Peter Kolb – Opinions Editor
Things don’t usually work like this. They shouldn’t, really.
I mean a group of misfit teenagers shouldn’t drop everything they have to start a boyband with some kids they met online. They shouldn’t live off an unhealthy amount of McDonald’s, sleeping on couches and inflatable mattresses in a small LA house.
And look, they definitely shouldn’t be able to turn a dust cloud of teen angst, amateur talent, and low-level production equipment into one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. That doesn’t work.
It shouldn’t work but it does for Kevin Abstract and America’s new favorite boyband: Brockhampton.
They’re not really a “boyband”. At least not the definition you’re probably thinking of (synchronized haircuts, music videos shot on beaches, some lead singer with one religious forearm tattoo playing an acoustic cover of Outkast or something); but that’s sort of the point — the definition you may be thinking of doesn’t quite matter to them.
Brockhampton is a hip-hop collective based out of California, formed by Houston native Kevin Abstract. The group’s roster is hard to pin down.
Alongside Abstract: Merlyn Woods, Matt Champion, Dom McLennon, Ameer Vann, and JOBA show up on most tracks.
However the group runs much deeper than the voices you hear in the headphones — all in all including 17 members.
The group was started in 2014 by Abstract, when he reached out on the popular internet forum “KanyeToThe” — a forum for Kanye West fans to talk about Kanye, music, TV, fashion, etc. Abstract wanted to do something, be someone.
He wanted to goof around and make music videos instead of ever stepping foot on a college campus. He wanted to start a boyband. Thus, Brockhampton was born.
In other ✈️ news…Is Kendrick Lamar Perfect?
To be fair, I am not a long-time fan of Brockhampton — most people aren’t. Their 2015 debut album, “All-American Trash” received a generally positive reception, but never quite reached the mainstream spotlight.
When the first of five singles for their upcoming album, “FACE,” dropped on May 6, I, along with many others, began to notice their talent.
In the month following, Brockhampton dropped hit after hit.
I’m talking 10/10 songs; the best singles for any album I can remember hearing in a while.
After the onslaught of “HEAT”, “GOLD”, “STAR”, and “BOYS”, Brockhampton found a firm grip on the hip-hop spotlight as their sophomore album “SATURATION” stood days away from its June 9 release.
With an accompanying VICELAND show debuting June 8, Brockhampton was primed to show the world what a bunch of internet misfits could do.
And boy, did they. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about “SATURATION” here; I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’re willing to give it a much deserved listen.
The album is 14 tracks long, with three short skits featuring the story of a darkly intriguing “Roberto” character laced throughout.
No weak spots! There are zero weak songs on this album. Each song brings a new sound to the album that manages to deepen the Brockhampton sound without sacrificing any cohesiveness.
The opening track “HEAT” has a beat that hits so hard with rhymes so filthy that is reminiscent of the early days of Odd Future.
Towards the middle of the album on “CASH,” Merlyn, Ameer, and Dom deliver verses over an acoustic guitar and a sing-songy chorus.
“See, the cool thing about being yourself isn’t that everybody starts to like you; it’s that the right people start to like you.”
Near the end, “FACE” updates the lamenting slow-rap of Kanye’s “808’s & Heartbreaks” to the Brockhampton era.
Each and every song brings something new to one of the most refreshing, original projects of the past few years.
Special shoutout to my personal favorites: “STAR”, “BOYS”, and “MILK”.
You know that cheery sounding banality, “just be yourself and others will like you for it”? Yea, total bullshit. I don’t know when that became a phrase, but I can guarantee you it was before Twitter and the culture of instant judgement existed.
Whether it’s coming from an internet stranger or your mom and dad; if you openly express “who you are”, whatever that means, someone somewhere will dislike you for it — I guarantee it.
But that’s what makes Brockhampton special: that originality.
Each member carries a different flow, tone, personality, set of rhymes, everything. Merlyn has never once delivered a dull verse. Ameer gives the group a dark and grimy edge that somehow still fits perfectly next to Dom’s infectiously clever bars. It’s sort of like Odd Future, if Odd Future actually tried to make good albums.
This is something increasingly hard to do in 2017 — an age where thousands of keyboard warriors and internet aficionados sit at the ready with plenty of well-aimed jabs and condescending reviews prepared for any risk an artist takes. It’s tough.
Just ask Kevin Abstract. Growing up as a homosexual black kid in an American suburb, Kevin saw more than his fair share of disdain towards “who he was”, even from inside his own home.
So, he did what very few people in his position have the strength to do: he sucked it up, and got mad.
Brockhampton moves with absolute unapologetic honesty and aggression.
On “STAR”, Abstract raps one of my favorite lines on the whole album: “High-school they ain’t f–k with me. Now critics don’t f–k with me. My own fam ain’t f–k with me… but Viceland did f–k with me!”
This underlying frustration seems to be a significant driving force throughout both Abstract’s solo work, and Brockhampton.
It’s a group of kids fed up with the world around them, so they’re making their own. See, the cool thing about being yourself isn’t that everybody starts to like you; it’s that the right people start to like you.
Brockhampton makes music for the kids that dance along to every move in the “Oldie” video. For the kids that are torn between wanting to just like what they like, and like what they “should” like in order to make it through a single day of high school without being singled out for it.
For the kids that trust Frank Ocean more than anyone at their church or Washington D.C.
For the kids that can feel their parents’ disappointment drift over the dinner table. For the kids that dream about moving to California to make music with their boyband.
And Kevin, Brockhampton, we thank you for it.
Brockhampton’s “SATURATION” can be found across all major streaming platforms. Their TV show, “American Boyband” airs Friday nights on vice.com.
Photo Courtesy of nationofbillions.com, greenlabel.com and genius.com