Brockhampton redefines what it means to be a modern day “boyband”


Grace Vespa and Bart Carmody

Meet Brockhampton: a thirteen-member boyband that defies genre labels.

Brockhampton’s front man is Kevin Abstract, a black, gay, 22-year old vocalist who produces the group’s homemade albums and music videos. Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Joba, and Bearface are the other primary vocalists, while Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa, and Kiko Merley are the main producers. Photographer Ashlan Grey, web designer Roberto Ontenient, graphic designer Henock “HK” Sileshi, and manager Jon Nunes are the members of Brockhampton that work behind the scenes.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BROCKHAMPTON (@brckhmptn) on

Perhaps one of the most iconic details of Brockhampton is the origin of the group itself. In 2010, a young Kevin Abstract created a post on the online hip-hop forum currently known as “KanyeToThe.” Abstract simply but effectively titled his post: “Anybody wanna make a band?” Within the thirty answers from other users, he met Connecticut born, Romil Hemani; star producer of the band today. Hemani and Abstract, alongside many other noteworthy artists, went on to collaboratively create Kevin Abstract’s first two solo works: “MTV1987,” and “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story.”

Following “MTV1987” and shortly before “American Boyfriend,” Abstract began working with several other music artists, both old friends and new, that shared a similar creative vision to his. Alongside Abstract and Hemnani, rappers Ameer Vann, Dom McLennon, and Rodney Trenor formed a group by the name of “AliveSinceForever.” After this group went on to only release one project, “The ASF EP,” they had a change of artistic direction and decided to rebrand themselves as the iconic name that they hold today: “Brockhampton.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BROCKHAMPTON (@brckhmptn) on

Now under their new name, the group released their first big project mix tape in 2016, titled “All-American Trash.” The boy-band was significantly larger during this era, and despite the fact that they had a wider selection of talent to contribute to the group’s work, it did not result in the refreshing, distinct music that they have put out in more recent times. Nonetheless, “All-American Trash” was an impressively cohesive first project that tackled a unique mix of different tones. “COTTON HOLLOW” is a soft and emotional R&B track about an unhealthy obsession with a lover, while their first single “FLIP MO” is a fierce banger. In 2017, the musical collective released three full-length albums for what would be known as the “Saturation” trilogy. The buzz around Brockhampton started gaining traction with “Saturation I, II, and III,” in which 48 full songs were released in a span of one year. “Viceland” covered Brockhampton’s rise with their documentary series “American Boyband,” which documents their first cross-country tour, Kevin Abstract’s film “Billy Star,” and their music videos across eight episodes. In 2018 they were officially signed to RCA Records, the label that has signed big-name artists such as Justin Timberlake, Zayn, Childish Gambino, and A$AP Rocky. They recently released their newest album, “Iridescence,” on September 21, 2018, which is the first album in their second trilogy known as “The Best Years of Our Lives.” On October 1, “Iridescence” peaked at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart, beating out Josh Groban’s “Bridges,” which shows how the band’s fiery energy and unconventional topics are gaining traction with the public.

View this post on Instagram

thank YALL gotdam it’s been a weird year

A post shared by kevin abstract (@iansimpson) on

Brockhampton is redefining what it means to be a boy-band, and more importantly, setting the course for future music collectives of a similar style to rise. According to Kate Difilippo, University freshman, Brockhampton is redefining the boy-band scene by, “redefining masculinity.” “They’re teaching their male fan base that it’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to be gay,” said Difilippo. In “Saturation II,” Abstract specifically raps about being gay in a heterosexually dominated genre. In the first verse of JUNKY, he raps, “Why you always rap about bein’ gay? Cause not enough n**** rap and be gay.” Kevin Abstract, as the front man of Brockhampton and the genius behind the album concepts and music videos, is paving the way for more gay and black rappers to enter the mainstream. On “Iridescence,” Abstract sings an ode to his boyfriend Jaden Walker in “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM.” He kisses Walker on the cheek in the music video for “1997 DIANA,” and regularly speaks about him on social media.

View this post on Instagram

by George

A post shared by kevin abstract (@iansimpson) on

View this post on Instagram

thanks for everything jaden walker

A post shared by kevin abstract (@iansimpson) on

University freshman, Bridget Fitzpatrick, also believes Brockhampton is incredibly important because “they show so much diversity and rap about issues that most rappers don’t touch on.” Throughout the “Saturation” trilogy, Brockhampton vocalists have rapped about racism, homophobia, mental illness, addiction, self-harm, and following your dreams without the guidance of your parents. According to the “ShortList,” Brockhampton’s plan is to “infiltrate pop culture from the outside and flip everything we thought we knew on its head.” The thirteen-member group films their own music videos, writes their own verses, produces their albums, designs their merchandise, and customizes their website. In the FineBros’ “Teens React to Brockhampton” video, teenagers reacted to Brockhampton’s music videos by commenting that they “were revolutionizing the boyband industry,” due to each member’s distinctive sound and open lyrics about identity and their insecurities. Their lyrics are emotionally intelligent and their albums blend acoustic pop, rock, and hip-hop seamlessly between songs. Recently, Matt Champion started a thread on Twitter where he wrote 120-character appreciative love letters to every member of Brockhampton, thanking them for all the hard work they’ve put in to every album. The members consider themselves a family, and their new album, “Iridescence,” further demonstrates a sense of unity and cohesiveness that most boy-bands can only dream of.

Their newest album came out after former Brockhampton member Ameer Vann was accused of sexual misconduct by his former girlfriend Rhett Rowan, and was subsequently kicked from the band in May. Vann was a prominent member of the group and featured on every cover of the “Saturation” trilogy. Vann has denied the accusations of abusive behavior, however he conceded that he has been emotionally manipulative in the past. In the era of #MeToo, Brockhampton faced criticism from their fans about not handling the allegations sooner, but they released a statement on Twitter. They stated that they wanted “to sincerely apologize to the victims affected by Ameer’s actions. We were lied to, and we’re sorry for not speaking up sooner.” The statement continued to say that they do not tolerate abuse of any kind, and that they were “going to go home and regroup.” Brockhampton cancelled the remaining US tour dates and pushed back the release of their fourth album previously titled “Puppy.” Dom McLennon stated that they want to represent good values, and show their fans “how to treat a woman well and how to be a better man.” This statement coincides with Matt Champion’s verse on “JUNKY,” in which he speaks on rape culture and raps that he hates “these shady folk that want a ladylike/but don’t treat lady right…respect my mother, respect my sister, respect these women, boy.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BROCKHAMPTON (@brckhmptn) on

“Iridescence” is the album born out of the scandal, and the verses speak of their growth emotionally and artistically without Vann. The new album was recorded in two weeks at Abbey Road in London, best known as the studio where the Beatles recorded, and it is clear that the members of Brockhampton can press on anew. The opening track “NEW ORLEANS” has a vibrant energy that speaks to Brockhampton’s rise to fame that defies all odds, specifically with the chorus “Tell ‘em boys, don’t run from us/I been down too long, cousin/I been down too long, brother/Tell the world, I ain’t scared of nothin’/Tell the world, I ain’t scared of jumpin’.” The majority of the tracks on the album jump from elated happiness for their success to somber tones for what success has done to them. In “WEIGHT,” Abstract confronts his own self-doubt as he feels “like I’m the worst in the boyband” in a vulnerable verse about his sexual identity and the pressure of fame, which is in direct contrast to his verse on “BOOGIE” from “Saturation III” which states that they’re “the best boy band since One Direction.”

The last three tracks, “SAN MARCOS,” “TONYA,” and “FABRIC,” have a softer feel to them as the members discuss their humility, the lows of fame, and question their own identity. In “FABRIC,” the last lyrics are a testament to the band’s emotional journey and connection to their fans as they end with “It’s the best years of our lives/You are now about to experience/These are the best years of our lives/I feel you.” Although each member expresses their individuality in different ways on the album, the overall tone makes it clear that they are a cohesive unit. Brockhampton has changed the perception of what a traditional boy-band looks and sounds like, as their newest album is filled with powerful lyrics that highlight their revitalized vigor. Even through a #MeToo scandal, Brockhampton seems to understand what makes a band great isn’t just the lyrics or the verses, but true passion, collaboration, cooperation, and a strong sense of family among all the members.

View this post on Instagram

album out now

A post shared by kevin abstract (@iansimpson) on

Brockhampton can be daunting to get into at first, so these ten songs are an introduction to the band that showcases each member’s distinctive talent and vocal ability.

  1. “SWEET” from “Saturation II” SWEET – BROCKHAMPTON

This is the first starting point to discovering both what makes Brockhampton so special and how the band operates. This video was filmed in one take, and no amount of affection between the members is faked. Matt Champion’s calm verse sets the tone for the song, and the easy chemistry between every member is showcased perfectly.

  1. “BOOGIE” from “Saturation III” BOOGIE – BROCKHAMPTON

“BOOGIE” is a fan-favorite hype track that is filled with raw energy. The video is filmed in the middle of a convenience store, and at one point Joba is seen rapping his verse from inside a glass freezer. Joba’s intense energy and Kevin Abstract’s chorus is a perfect combination for the heavy beats in the background.

  1. “JUNKY” from “Saturation II” JUNKY – BROCKHAMPTON

This song opens with Kevin Abstract’s powerful verse, in which he raps in detail about being black and gay in the rap industry that does not often have both. Each member, including Ameer Vann, Joba, Merlyn Wood, and Matt Champion, raps about their struggles in life with candid emotion.

  1. “WEIGHT” from “Iridescence” WEIGHT – BROCKHAMPTON

“WEIGHT” opens with a gut-wrenching verse from Abstract about his developing sexual identity as a teenager in tandem with the lows of Brockhampton’s fame. Dom McLennon raps about not calling home enough and staying true to his roots, while Joba raps about the pressure of fame and the pain it has caused on his psyche.


Similar to “BOOGIE,” the first song from their new album opens with an explosive energy that infects all the members. Jaden Smith, a friend of Brockhampton, raps part of Abstract’s verse at the end of the song. The music video shows the members of Brockhampton surrounded by fans at a show in Sydney, expressing their desire to leave a legacy. The music video is chaotic and intense, which is exactly the vibe of the song.

  1. “1998 TRUMAN” from their released singles 1998 TRUMAN – BROCKHAMPTON

“1998 TRUMAN” is a reference to the movie “The Truman Show,” in which a man realizes he has been living a false and unfulfilling lifestyle. Merlyn Wood’s potent hook sets the tone for the song, where the all members rap about their disillusion with fame. Although Joba’s acute energy is prominent is almost all of Brockhampton’s songs, his verse shines as he raps with passionate energy about following his dream in the face of cynics.

  1. “FACE” from “Saturation I” FACE – BROCKHAMPTON

“FACE” is one of their mellow tracks that explore the pain of lost love. Joba’s calm tone speaks about loving this person and willing to let his guard down in front of this person. Dom McLennon and Matt Champion have verses that continue the nonchalant tone of the song, as they speak about loving a person that cannot love them back.

  1. “SAN MARCOS” from “Iridescence” SAN MARCOS – BROCKHAMPTON

Track 13 from their new album references the band’s origin in San Marcos, Texas. Bearface’s acoustic vocals, Champion’s opening verse, and Abstract’s chorus creates a soulful track that looks toward the future with optimism and hope. In the music video, Brockhampton fans from Melbourne sing the ending lines of the song “I want more out of life than this,” in response to the legacy that Brockhampton is slowly building.

  1. “HEAT” from “Saturation I” HEAT – BROCKHAMPTON

The vocalists on this track are powerful and unapologetic in their anger toward police brutality. In the video, Joba delivers his message straight to the camera with intense, manic energy that seems to spill as his verse reaches the heavy crescendo. Matt Champion, Dom McLennon, and Merlyn Wood pull no punches as they speak their truth directly to the audience.


“LAMB” did not make it onto any of the “Saturation” albums, but it is a positive song about how much the members of Brockhampton appreciate each other. The song is a tribute to their friendship, and their happy smiles are completely open for all of the world to see.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BROCKHAMPTON (@brckhmptn) on

Co-Written by Grace Vespa and Bart Carmody