Brockhampton by Converse
South Torrance High School

Op-Ed: The boyband we didn’t know we needed

We’ve all been through some type of boyband phase. Whether that be with one of the “classics” such as The Beatles, NSync, or the Backstreet Boys, or the more recent waves of One Direction obsession, Why Don’t We (I had no idea they were a thing until very recently — I feel like an old lady), or even K- and/or J-pop groups. The boyband industry is a large and well-run one, basically manufactured to seep its way into everyone’s life in one way or another.

We all know the drill of how these boybands work; an attractive group of dudes are mashed together by a manager, made to sing earworm generic songs about a vague description of females that we all subsequently swoon over, and are then sent around the world to tour and sell overwhelming amounts of merchandise to their millions of fans. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this system; I think I’ve just had my life dose of memorizing band members favorite colors and birthdays by this point.

So when I started hearing talk about the rise of a new boyband, I was well prepared to witness this exact cycle repeat itself… just like, from afar. Little did I know, Brockhampton was definitely not your run of the mill boyband.

Considering their recent boom in popularity, Brockhampton is a name that you have probably been hearing an increasing amount lately. They were a recent addition to the Coachella lineup this year, and are the new favorite of seemingly every famous person ever. With their self-labeled title as “the internet’s first boyband,” this crew of 14 members has taken the music world by storm. But who are they? And more importantly, what makes them so special?

If I were to be completely honest with you, the members of this group are so unique that they each well deserve an article of their own; but for the sake of my own sanity we’re going to mainly focus this one around Brockhampton’s influence as a collective. As was stated previously, there are 14 current members of this group, ranging from rappers, singers, producers, designers, and managers alike.

Here’s a basic breakdown of each member and their positions:

  •         Ian Simpson – known as Kevin Abstract: founder of the group, vocalist, creative director
  •         Matt Champion: vocalist
  •         Ameer Vann: vocalist
  •         William Wood – known as Merlyn Wood: vocalist
  •         Dominic Simpson – known as Dom Mclennon: vocalist
  •         Russel Boring – known as Joba Boring: vocalist, producer, sound mixer
  •         Ciaran McDonald – known as Bearface: vocalist, guitarist, producer
  •         Romil Hemnani: producer, engineer, DJ
  •         Jabari Manwa and Isaiah Merriweather (known as Kiko Merley) – known collectively as Q3: production duo
  •         Henock Sileshi – known as HK: creative director, graphic designer
  •         Cody Valentine – known as Ashlan Grey: photographer and videographer
  •         Robert Ontenient: website designer
  •         Jon Nunes: management
brockhampton viceland Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
Photo courtesy of Viceland

Regardless of what their role may be, every member of the team is considered a part of the Brockhampton front – a concept basically unheard of in the music industry. In a MTV interview, founder Kevin Abstract said “everybody’s a part of the process” after being asked why art directors and the like were considered to be part of the group. Ultimately, every person who is part of creating their art is a member of the band, regardless of whether they are the “standard” part of the groups public appearance.  

The formation of this band is one that sounds like it came straight out of a movie. It all started in 2010, when Abstract posted on KanyeLive (now KanyeToThe) – a public forum for Kanye West fans – asking if anybody wanted to form a band. The initial post had over 30 replies, all of which were eventually narrowed down to 4 people: Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Dom Mclennon, and Mic Kurb (now known as Rodney Tenor) who then collaborated to form the group AliveSinceForever.

After becoming officially active in 2012, AliveSinceForver released their debut EP ASF; soon following, founder Abstract released his debut album MTV1987. Soon following this feature, the rebranding and expansion of AliveSinceForever to the Brockhampton we now know of occured. New members were found through KanyeToThe, solidifying this groups title as “the internet’s first boyband.” Originally based in Texas, the members of the group slowly made their way to North Hollywood, all living together in one house nicknamed the Factory (as it is where they are consistently creating and manufacturing art).

Brockhampton’s music is quite diverse, although the most appropriate genre to fit it into would have to be rap. With no label to their name, Brockhampton created and released four albums — “All American Trash” (2015), and “the Saturation trilogy: Saturation I, II, and III” (2017).

all american trash Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
“All American Trash”

“All American Trash” was the first look into who and what this group was; the first song of the album quite literally introducing every member of the group, where they were based (Texas at that time), and their new collective title as Brockhampton. Their variance in sound is shown right off the bat, switching from the intense feels of BEN CARSON into the laid-back groove of MICHIGAN. This album didn’t gain as much immediate traction as its “Saturation” counterparts, however did jumpstart the introduction of this group into the world.

       

saturation Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
“Saturation”
saturation ii Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
“Saturation II”
saturation iii Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
Saturation III

Much like the title of the project, the “Saturation” trilogy quite literally saturated the music scene with Brockhampton’s music, making them nearly impossible to ignore after its release. Those who hadn’t heard about them from “All American Trash” without a doubt had heard about them now, and many songs from these albums started to garner millions of streams. These three albums were released in the span of seven months, collectively adding up to over 45 songs released to the public between June and December of 2017.

What is perhaps most impressive about this groups music is their ability to find uniform strength in individuality. Each vocalist has their own distinct sound, and similarly, their lyrics often feed off each of their individual experiences or struggles. The sound of their songs cover a wide variety of feelings (or as the cool kids call them: vibes), from hard-hitting and base heavy, to hype and pop-y, all the way to heartfelt and chill; and it is through this exploration of sound that Brockhampton has able to find both trademark sounds and a never-ending expanse of ground to explore musically.

In terms of the subject matter discussed in their songs, this band brings with them unabashed honesty and social commentary on a variety of issues. Every vocalist discusses their own stories, and through this have created songs that highlight a multitude of social issues including mental health, sexuality, sexism, racism, drug addiction, failure, and much more. This is arguably another reason why they are loved so passionately and by so many; it is already a rarity to find such authentic artists, but with a concentration of multiple it is nearly impossible to not find at least one individual whose lyrics speak to you on a personal level. Many members of the group are solo artists as well, giving fans even more content to enjoy from those that interest them musically and/or lyrically.

Brockhampton has also shown their ability to master artistry through cinematography. With over 12 music videos on their YouTube channel, there is now an established Brockhampton universe that has been created through film. One distinct feature of each video being group member Roberto, who makes an appearance at the beginning of every video –  introducing himself and saying a sentence (most of the time related to the soon to be scene of the video) in Spanish; many clips of Roberto can be heard throughout the Saturation trilogy’s tracklist as well, often adding a storyline element to each of the albums.

Nearly all of their videos are directed and shot by group members themselves, often showing members prancing around town, doing something crazy (see: laying in a bathtub of fruit loops or driving a golf cart in the middle of the street), and donning a multitude of random outfits and accessories (or even being coated in blue paint, the look given to the Saturation trilogy).

billy star Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
Screenshot from “Billy Star”

In addition to these fun videos, there are also productions like Billy Star: a 20 minute feature-film like video with beautiful cinematography, vivid coloring, multiple songs, and a heartbreaking storyline featuring Kevin Abstract’s character “helmet boy” and his love interest – a football player named Summer (played by Nick Lenzini). No matter the type, every video creates an enticing world of its own, shining a light on the familial chemistry, boyish fun, and creative genius cultivated by each of the members.

Up until this year, Brockhampton did everything on their own – not having been signed with any label. They did so with the intent of creating what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted – and it worked. But – just as they have been doing with their music – this group is constantly expanding, and on March 30th announced their new deal with RCA records, a label home to artists like Britney Spears, Shakira, and Justin Timberlake. They have also announced the upcoming release of a new album “Puppy” this June.

puppy Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
“Puppy”

All in all, this boyband is a group of multi-talented, diverse creators who are consistently working together to do what they love. Brockhampton highlights the power that the internet can have, both in terms of social and entrepreneurial pursuits. Not only would they have never formed a group, but also never would have been able to rise to the level of success as they did that they have without an online presence. 

They show us that it is possible to become successful while going down your own path, and that it is ok to improve upon ones that have already been created. They show us strength in individuality, authenticity in art, and a new definition of the word boyband. It is no surprise that this group has already seen such great amounts of success in such a short amount of time, but is also no surprise that this is only the tip of the iceberg for them.

brockhampton nme Op Ed: The boyband we didnt know we needed
Photo courtesy of NME

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