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—by Kemet High
The evolution of a boy band has taken many different faces in music over the past few decades. Aside from the baggy clothes, syncopated dance moves, charming smiles, and harmonized vocals, boy bands have been considered outdated as of late in rap and R&B worlds. The modern boy band no longer comes in the mold of good looks and choir ensemble songs. It now comes in the form of queer rap and trap bars, orchestral production, and people who may not even necessarily make music, like photographers and designers. Artists now have the same internet resources to promote their music, no matter the genre or angle of lyricism. As the majority of artists in the country aren't signed to a record label or a deal, their biggest support until getting to that point is each other and I guess now, if ever, it makes sense as to why people are stronger when they band together.
BROCKHAMPTON is the modern boy band, and they are far from what we believed a boy band actually was. Who would've thought that in 2018, a boy band would be at the top of the charts once again?
At the end of September, it was announced that BROCKHAMPTON had the No.1 album on the Billboard 200 albums chart with Iridescence—meaning No.1 in the country. Currently based out of California, this hip-hop collective's fourth studio album moved over 100,000 units, granting headlines all over music publications and the internet. Their journey to becoming mainstream was never intentional, but now that it's true, there are a few reasons why. The first, is their story.
There hasn't been a rap group that's rolled this deep since the Wu-Tang Clan. Back in 2010, frontman Kevin Abstract posted to the online 'Kanye To The' forum, asking who wanted to create a band. Whether he was serious or not, he garnered over 30 responses which allowed him to create a band by the name of AliveSinceForever featuring himself, Dom McLennon, Ameer Vann, and Mic Kurb. After dropping just one EP in 2013, AliveSinceForever disbanded only to return in 2015 rebranded as BROCKHAMPTON. Abstract took lead and reached out to those he thought could contribute to the dynasty they were trying to create. Musically, the group consists of Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, and Dom McLennon on vocals, Joba and Bearface on both vocals and production, and producers Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa, and Kiko Merley. Additionally, what allows the music to be felt just as hard visually as it does audibly is the work of graphic designer Henock "HK" Sileshi, photographer Ashlan Grey, and web designer Roberto Ontenient. Lastly, there's manager Jon Nubes.
In 2016, BROCKHAMPTON—now an over-a-dozen-deep, self-sufficient creative powerhouse—released their debut mixtape All-American Trash that not only introduced each member for the first time, but did so for the full cohesive unit as well. Abstract's nonchalant detailing of homosexuality spoke to an audience that hip-hop had to yet to address on a mainstream level. Matt Champion's playful delivery but reflective content spoke to the thoughts that go unsaid on a daily basis. And Merlyn Wood rapped in a way that could not be grasped on first listen, but added energy to each song no matter the mood. The collective implemented—and continues to—enough varying musical elements, harmonies, and production styles, that it'd be hard not to find a fave in at least one member. It was a rare case in which numerous options didn't sound overwhelming.
They realized what they could do and they started working. In two years, BROCKHAMPTON released four studio albums. Their Saturation trilogy didn't assist in them finding their cohesive style sound-wise, but rather gave fans a genre-bounding plethora to pick and choose from; "STAR" leaned trap, while "GAMBA" and "BLEACH" toed the lines of pop-rap and alt-R&B.
However, it wasn't until 2018 that the world began to no longer see them as a band that makes music for the misunderstood only. They're simply a band that makes great music.
Fourth studio album Iridescence was released after the departure of former member Ameer Vann. Although the vulgar lyrical presence he established was prominent, the further incorporation of Bearface and Merlyn has filled the void and, as the LP is slower in its reveals, it's allowed for Joba and Matt to be truly reflected in a way that the trilogy didn't offer. Tracks like "Tape" are for rainy nights inside, whereas "Honey" is made for Coachella.
Despite being signed to a multi-million dollar deal with RCA, they team still boasts a clear independent and "DIY" feel to everything they make. It doesn't sound like they should be mainstream at all—and yet.
Their style is nothing short of unconventional but, as always with good music, people don't sleep forever. Standing at the forefront of a redefined boy band, BROCKHAMPTON has also gone against the grain of everything rap music is "supposed" to sound like. What if, 10 years ago, I had told you that a 13-man group, of which some official members never even hop on the mic, and who implement even a handful of queer lyrics, would sit at the top of the chart? Would you have believed me?
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