The progression of BROCKHAMPTON


BROCKHAMPTON is a Californian-based music collective. This self-entitled “boy band” consists of 14 members and is led by a talented rapper named Kevin Abstract. BROCKHAMPTON have redefined the term “boy band” through their evolution as a group and as a result, they have seen their popularity grow at a rapid pace over the last three years. The group’s momentum has built up immensely (to a degree where the music can’t go unnoticed) and they’ve been critiqued by music fans and critics alike – all trying to understand where they fall into the puzzle of the hip-hop scene.

 
They’ve made some bold claims along the way. They once claimed being “The internet’s first boy band”.  When you Google the words, “boy band” – you briefly find this description, “boy band is loosely defined as a vocal group consisting of young male singers, usually in their teenage years”. Well, under that definition, they’re a boy band. Moreover, they’re correct to call themselves an internet boy bond as their whole development has been heavily reliant on the internet. Their understanding of networks can be easily seen when looking at their formation and growth. An example of this internet reliance can be linked back to the creation of the collective as they formed on an online music forum. Ultimately, becoming official in 2012 (before rebranding themselves as BROCKHAMPTON in 2015). However, they aren’t the first. In fact, they aren’t even second. Their formation may not have been possible in previous decades but it might be a slight reach to call themselves the internet’s first.
It’s important to reference other large music collectives such as Odd Future and Pro Era. Odd Future relied heavily on their online presence and their use of social media platforms to cultivate heavy hype. Pro Era used music platforms to establish its vast following. Without Odd Future and Pro Era, it’s unlikely that a large rap collective could attract such mainstream traction in this day and age.

With that said, it’s time to document their rise. After a few minor years of much underground yet subtle mainstream anticipation. Traction occurred after numerous things came together. While they worked on their mixtape All-American Trash, Abstract released two solo albums – MTV1987 in 2014 and American Boyfriend in 2016. Fans gravitated to this and Abstract channelled the attention he received towards the group. A Tyler, the Creator co-signs and a few promotional singles later, people became eager to listen their music.

However, All-American Trash felt like a sub-par project, at least when compared to their recent work but it was a decent starting point for the boy band. The layers of the beats had the same unique and eccentric style that we’ve come to expect from them but lacked tha bit of dynamic attentiveness and “oomph.” The chemistry among the members was not fully developed and that’s the mixtape’s biggest downfall as one of the collective’s strengths is their sense of unity. Moreover, the lyrics on the project weren’t as hard-hitting as they could’ve been. For the tape’s vast majority, it lacked memorable or notable lines. Despite all the issues that this project presented (which are expected from first-releases and large groups), it also presented a lot of positive outcomes. BROCKHAMPTON has a great deal of potential – every member is different and they aren’t afraid to experiment. That experimental creativity is why certain tracks are good and filled with replay value while others are misses or “duds”. The mixtape left many wondering if BROCKHAMPTON would be able to improve on their inconsistencies. Within a year (which is a short amount of time artistically), the group planned to release a full album in 2017, titled “Saturation”. Prior to its release, there was little that showed that the group’s next release would have a vast impact on the group or the music community as a whole.

BROCKHAMPTON released some singles as part of their album rollout. These singles were the songs “FACE”, “HEAT”, “GOLD” and the standout, “STAR”. These songs were highly praised for their musical variety and sound. In addition, people loved their style and creative visions of the videos. Ashlan Grey (the group’s photographer) and Henock Sileshi (the group’s creative director) were mostly responsible for their vivid videos. BROCKHAMPTON showed much attention to detail. They’re extravagant without doing too much.

These releases showed that BROCKHAMPTON’s talents were much more than being in a studio and left many anticipating this album with higher expectations. These hopes were well-lived and exceeded expectations created when it finally released on June 9th 2017. “Saturation” was released to much critical acclaim. They were mainly heralded for the great improvement from All-American Trash (and in such a short amount of time) but also acclaimed for being cohesive (although it has different sound offerings) and bringing something new sonically. Sound directions were vast as it was often aggressive yet others were nonchalant and harmonic. They were able to bring in the personalities of their different members and although not fully inclusive of every member, it was a huge step forward. Their music became more memorable, their content was more relatable and it’s characterized by catchy hooks and better verses. The album created BROCKHAMPTON’s foundation as their success saw them cultivate a fan base, however, they did not manage to fully convince everyone.  Older generational hip-hop lovers could not relate to the topics although their content improved. Furthermore, due to BROCKHAMPTON’s experimental nature, their sonic direction is not enjoyed by every listener.

Shortly after Saturation’s success, the group announced that there was a second album on its way. Nobody expected them to be working on a second project so soon, let alone “on the way” within two months. While rolling out “Saturation II” as singles and music videos were released in August, they managed to announce that “Saturation III” was scheduled for 2017. It was announced before the release of “Saturation II”. Firstly, their crazy work ethic is unhealthy. They’ve got Future’s work ethic although they don’t make “fast food music”. Moreover, every project is better than the prior. Their ability to remain consistent without sounding overly repetitive or boring is exceptional.
 
“Saturation II” was finally released within that crazy month of August, dropping on the 25th of August. “Saturation II” showed that BROCKHAMPTON are completely capable of changing their sound whilst maintaining themselves. They showed the world their amazing arrangement and phenomenal use of instruments. They managed to infuse more boom-bap rap production with a huge lyrical improvement.  Ameer Vann and Dom McLennon’s showings were outstanding as they speak on serious topics while remaining fun and catchy. Dom's introspective thoughts and Ameer's race-fueled lyrics were enticing to watch.
This album was more inclusive for listeners. It’s experimental but not overboard. Moreover, the production and content resonates with most demographics (including older hip-hop lovers). The album saw a huge improvement commercially as they charted on the US Billboard 200. It saw their fan base become even larger as they became mainstream fixtures. By December, BROCKHAMPTON’s weirdness alongside their musicality was embraced heavily as BROCKHAMPTON “stans” formed. The group’s humble nature sees them always interact with those who invested in their music. They’re always eager to communicate with fans as they reference cultural references, memes and lyrics alongside their bubbling personas. Kevin Abstract’s lyrics come to mind as he deals with his homosexuality alongside a fan-favourite member, Merlyn and their signature blue characters. Their reach was beyond music. They became important in pop culture.


When “Saturation III” was due (December 15th 2017), BROCKHAMPTON were one of 2017’s biggest discoveries. This helped propel the album to being #15 on the US Billboard 200 with 36,418 album-equivalent units. Furthermore, it was #5 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
“Saturation III” was also a change from Saturation II. It was something BROCKHAMPTON seemed to be suited for. The group’s members were smooth in this album, they sounded cohesive and synchronized (their best showing of chemistry yet). Matt Champions’ hidden singing talent is something to behold. It’s somewhat angelic. “Saturation III” felt like a great conclusion to the trilogy.  They managed to set themselves for the norm and told listeners, “Who are BROCKHAMPTON?” They showed us how close members are as friends and artists. They illustrated their vivid and different personalities, rhymed about socio-political events and showed their outstanding musicality.

In conclusion, BROCKHAMPTON don’t have the best lyricists, singers, musicians or the greatest content. They don’t have the greatest sales or fan base, however, what separates BROCKHAMPTON from the norm is how they remain true to themselves. BROCKHAMPTON embrace who they are. Every peculiar personality is accepted and they remain a group of friends with no fear of being judged. They are the narrators of their own lives, speaking about their daily events and often looking to uplift.

When you aren’t afraid to be yourself and take risks, you won’t make anything substantial. Their releases are only notable because they don’t try too hard to be what they’re not. They put maximum effort into their ideas and try progress with every attempt. They believe in their ideas and despite having limited resources, they continually advance. As they move forward, BROCKHAMPTON could improve their inclusions of members. They should focus on other members in the group who receive less group-attention, such as Bearface.
 
BROCKHAMPTON have heavy attention on them and many are looking forward to seeing how they progress in the future. “Team Effort”, which was announced a day before Saturation III’s release and is coming in 2018. Look out for their next project.

 

Personal favourite tracks (based on album track-order):


All-American Trash: Michigan, Breakfast, Contacts, Home

Saturation: HEAT, GOLD, STAR, BOYS, FAKE, BANK, TRIP, MILK

Saturation II: GUMMY, QUEER, JELLO, TEETH, SWAMP, TOKYO, CHICK, JUNKY, FIGHT, SWEET

Saturation III: BOOGIE, RENTAL, ZIPPER, JOHNNY, STUPID, BLEACH, SISTER/NATION, STAINS
 

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