One Direction. *NSYNC. The Backstreet Boys. For too long, boy bands have existed only within pop music and have given us exactly zero bangers. In 2017, Brockhampton changed that.
The up-and-coming rap group originally from Texas considers itself “the Internet’s first boy band.” Comprised of vocalists, producers and creative directors, each of the 14 members plays an equally important role in the collective. The group gained some mainstream popularity and a devoted fan base after releasing the Saturation album trilogy in 2017.
Early members of the group met in 2010 after leader Kevin Abstract posted on a Kanye West fan forum looking for artists interested in forming a band. More guys joined over time, releasing tracks and guerilla-style music videos under what would soon be the Brockhampton name. The boy band then decided to move to California, live in a house together and independently release the All-American Trash mixtape in 2016. From there, the group wanted to make a name for themselves and “saturate” the rap scene, so they released Saturation I, II and III in June, August and December of 2017, respectively.
The overall style of Brockhampton ranges from bass-heavy beats and smooth R&B rhythms to frenetic autotuned hooks, all layered with memorable and honest lyrics. Their obvious inspiration is Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future collective, but there are also traces of Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Kid Cudi in their music. The Saturation albums have some experimental beats that stand out from mainstream hip-hop and mumble rap, allowing each member to show off his personality. Just like any successful boy band, each artist can stand on his own and adds his unique voice to the sound of the whole.
Get to know some of the core members:
Kevin Abstract has the vision. He brought the boy band together and serves as the lead creative director. He’s outspoken about his homosexuality and isn’t afraid to get personal, like on his opening verse of “JUNKY.” Check out “SWEET” and “HOTTIE” for some of his best hooks.
Dom McLennon has the fire. As arguably Brockhampton’s most consistently hot lyricist, he delivers a combination of hard and poetic verses for every track he’s on. His flows can switch up to match any beat, and he’s the backbone of most of Brockhampton’s songs. “STAR,” “SWAMP” and “RENTAL” have some of his greatest hits.
Ameer Vann has the soul. He’s known for rapping about his dark past and drug abuse to the point of it becoming a meme, but every line he spits is real and honest. With his recognizable, conversational flow, every verse is like a personal story with ups and downs that he shares with the audience. “FACE,” “QUEER” and “STAINS” are some of his highlights, and he goes especially hard on the solo track “TEETH.”
Matt Champion has the grind. He tends to rap about his never-ending hustle for success with his low-key, steady flow that stands out on every track he’s on. In addition to rapping, he can also flex his singing ability, like in his melodic verse on “RENTAL.” “ALASKA” and “ZIPPER” feature some more of his best lines.
Merlyn Wood has the hype. With his high-energy bars, he pumps up each of his tracks and usually has the funniest lines of any member. When he takes a break from his charismatic persona, he can also be introspective and serious, like his verse on “MILK.” “JUNKY” is also a standout for him, and “SWEET” easily has his best lines.
Joba has the wildcard. He can switch from falsetto vocals to screamo lyrics in an instant, adding a special ingredient to his tracks. Since he’s also a producer, he appears sparingly on the Saturation albums, but when he does, he makes an impact. “HEAT,” “FACE,” “JOHNNY” and “SWEET” all showcase his wide range of styles.
Along with their producers, videographers and graphic designers, each member of Brockhampton brings equal passion to everything they do. They’re an inspiration to anyone trying to follow their dreams and to anyone who’s been called a “weirdo” or “outcast.” By simply posting on a forum, Kevin Abstract rounded up a boy band of social outcasts that have become your favorite artists’ new favorite artists.
Wow Lupe fucking tweeted about us he meant so so so so much to me growing up holy FUCKKKK— dumbass (@kevinabstract) February 13, 2018
Simply put, there’s no other group out there like Brockhampton right now. No other group has recorded three high-quality albums and released more than a dozen stylized music videos in one year. No other group has supported the individual careers of its members while staying independent and scoring a documentary on Viceland, no less. No other group has redefined what it means to be a “boy band” in the rap scene, but Brockhampton is doing just that, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
The best way to jump into Brockhampton’s music is by listening to the Saturation trilogy chronologically. You can hear the growth of each member throughout each album, as if they were characters on a TV show with story arcs. After a full listen, each release can stand well on its own, but I’d have to rank Saturation II as the clear best, with III, then I following close behind. If you still need more Brockhampton, check out their early All-American Trash mixtape and the solo works of each member, and keep an eye out for their next album, Team Effort, dropping sometime this year.