The boy band Brockhampton can best be described as a harmonious and quirky amalgamation of individual talent. From the sound of its music to the size of the group, not to mention each member’s individual style both inside and outside of the recording booth, Brockhampton strikes listeners as just plain different.
Even the way in which the group was formed is unorthodox. The band’s current leader, Kevin Abstract, along with Jalen Jones, posted a message on the Kanye West online fan forum, “KanyeToThe,” inviting others to form a band. After the original attempt, the group recruited more members and branded itself as Brockhampton.
In the spring of 2016, Brockhampton released its debut mixtape, “All-American Trash,” and the subsequent release of three successive albums (“Saturation,” “Saturation II” and” Saturation III”) facilitated the group’s rise to stardom.
A notable aspect of the first “Saturation” album is that Brockhampton released many of the songs on it as singles and music videos before the album was released. In contrast, most artists usually put out just one or two songs as singles before the official album release as a means of generating interest. Music industry conventions dictate that releasing too many songs off an album before its release will weaken the allure and excitement surrounding the album, harming album sales and streams. By sticking to its own script, however, the band overcame the roadblocks that most up-and-coming artists face, presenting its best songs to potential fans immediately. The public didn’t have to wait for critics to review Brockhampton’s whole album or sit around for a long time between new content releases. By saturating YouTube and streaming services with a host of singles, Brockhampton put itself on the map.
One of the best singles that ended up on the first album is “FACE,” a slow-paced love song that features pleading, tender verses from some of the band’s best rappers. On the chorus, Joba croons “Tell me what you’re waiting for / I just wanna love ya.” Later, Ameer Vann raps, “You make it warm in my bed, butterflies in my head.” The song displays the range that Brockhampton would later perfect in its successive albums.
Another highlight of “Saturation” is “CASH,” which opens with a foreboding guitar riff that continues for the length of the song. It has both the sound and ethos of a rock song; the listener can feel the frustration and anger radiating from the rappers when Merlyn Wood wonders “Whose society is this? Who delayed my first kiss?” or when Ameer Vann spits “Kill you for a dollar, listen to ‘em holler / Big blood ballers with a crown on my corner.” The beauty of having such a large rap group is that each individual brings his own experience and perspective to every song. Brockhampton is truly “All-American,” featuring artists black and white, straight and gay and young and old. However, it is an exclusively male group. This diverse group of artists only became united when it felt like society had put them in a position to fail and “Get[ting] money, big bands, simple bands” was the only answer.
“Saturation II” is more cohesive and spirited than its predecessor, making it by far the most exciting of the three albums. The opening track, “GUMMY,” exudes more energy than most of the songs on “Saturation.” Kevin Abstract’s M.I.A. impression on the chorus — “Cash don’t last, my friends will ride with me / Keep ‘em in a bag, we robbed a limousine” — and Dom McLennon’s lyricism — “That’s what they sayin’ in private, speaking from that entitlement / We still workin’ for titles and makin’ tidal environments” — complete the song.
The passionate chorus in “QUEER” and Ameer Vann’s verse, “My lifestyle still the same, just a face lift … My whole life slowly turned into a daydream,” provide a change of pace from the song’s opening. Kevin Abstract’s mocking falsetto (“La-di-da-di-da-di-da, do I trust ‘em? Probably not”) on the chorus of “JELLO” epitomizes Brockhampton’s weirdness and unabashed willingness to try new things.
Meanwhile, “CHICK” examines the self-consciousness of the nerdy members of Brockhampton. On “JUNKY,” Kevin Abstract openly discusses his homosexuality, attempting to subvert the stigma regarding gay rappers. “SWEET” boasts the best lyrics on the album with two-liners like “The original lick-splickety, higher than Yosemite / Breaking the mold mentally, master with no limiting” and “What it’s like to be called to what’s not set in stone / I am one with the ebb and flow, that’s all I know.”
On “Saturation III,” the members of the band play off each other well, most likely the result of having spent more time rapping and recording songs together. “BLEACH” is the album’s show-stopper, featuring a soulful chorus and introspective verses. On “ALASKA,” the group reflects on their rise to stardom and the differences found in their new lives, while “RENTAL” features catchy flow over a smooth synth. Overall, “Saturation III” feels more complete, both lyrically and thematically, than the other “Saturation” albums.
Brockhampton burst onto the music scene with its rapid-fire album releases and instant hits, and its idiosyncratic style has penetrated the mainstream music industry. The group consistently shows intense growth from one album to the next and its future looks bright. Hopefully, Brockhampton can follow up its incredible 2017 with more quality music in 2018.