“One day I’mma get my bread up, all my real ni**** still fed up,” raps Kevin Abstract on the hook of the song Cannon, by the boy-band BROCKHAMPTON, released on January 27th, 2017. At the time the line seemed like it embodied the themes that have occupied rap music since rap music was even created; wanting to get your “bread” up, and being fed up with your current position. But within a few short months, it was clear that the line was meant as a declaration. Abstract was declaring that BROCKHAMPTON would become the most important boy-band in music.
In an age where the internet is the most important mode of communication, it seems appropriate that BROCKHAMPTON was created after its core members met on a famous Kanye west fan forum, KanyeToThe. Based predominantly out of Texas, the 15 member boyband moved from Texas to California, completely self-sufficiently. Soon thereafter, they released their second album Saturation on June 7th, 2017. By August 24th, the band had released the lead single off Saturation III, with Saturation II set to release August 25th. Let me just say that BROCKHAMPTON’s music is good. Like, really good. Their ability to craft some of the catchiest, smoothest and genre-bending instrumentals is only matched by the amazing, thought-provoking, and well-written verses that are brought by BROCKHAMPTON’s vocalists; Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Dom Mclennon, Joba Boring, Matt Champion, and Merlyn Wood.
On songs like JUNKY, they come through with eerie spine-tingling bars about their troubled pasts, whether it is the turmoil that being queer caused Kevin Abstract’s family, the drug-addiction that nearly took over Ameer Vann’s life, or the alcoholism that Matt Champion’s mother struggles with. On songs like STAR, they pack the lyrics full of amazing pop culture references over a bouncy trunk-knocking beat, with hilarious gems like “I’m the black Tom Hanks, you can call me ni*** Banks” or “Heath Ledger with some dreads, I just gave my ni*** head”. With songs like SWAMP and GOLD, the star of the show is the buttery smooth instrumentals that incorporate beautiful, glossy bells and smooth guitar riffs.
But more than just the amazing technicality of the music, BROCKHAMPTON is making music for the forgotten few. Apart from some of the straightforward lines referencing Abstract’s sexuality, the sexuality of the other members is kept purposefully vague. On some songs, members will pitch-shift their voices to feminine levels, MIA style, making it hard to differentiate who is saying what, forcing the listener to abandon the thoughts about the person behind the voice and focus on identifying with the music itself. On songs like MILK, Abstract sings about wanting to get better at being himself, a thought many of us have grappled with a lot of our lives. On songs like HEAT, each member brings a Death Grips-like aggression to the song. Each verse is rapped with such an angry authenticity as they rap about growing up young, queer, and black (respectively) in the “dirty south”, an area that has not been historically supportive of people in those demographics. Themes of being trapped in the suburbs and wanting to “fly away from here” come through amazingly on songs like TRIP.
With the meteoric rises and comebacks of various artists such as Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator, there has been a wave of music in hip-hop that is throwing away the previously cemented notions of hyper-masculinity and what it truly means to be hip-hop. It finally seems that hip-hop is allowing itself to breathe and expand into a place it has never been before. In a world where they should have never succeeded, BROCKHAMPTON is cementing their place in music. They are leading a new generation of music lovers, breaking the boundaries of the genres they dabble in and making relatable and heartfelt music for people just like them. They are more than just some kids, more than just hip-hop, more than just rap, more than just pop. They’re a boyband.