Ears Wide Open: Brockhampton


Brockhampton, the self-proclaimed “All-American Boy Band,” seeks to redefine the tropes of our time by taking our best memes and breaking them. They met online on a fan forum for one of the most memed rappers of our time. They spit bars next to an animated Muppet and rob a bank with an alpaca (see: “Gummy”). They unironically name-check two members of One Direction. They speak of self-actualization and heteronormativity in interviews. Has any group ever been more millennial?

The stylistic shifts throughout their output over the past year and a half are executed with exuberance and a devil-may-care methodology. The 12-member band is swimming in influences ranging from Lil Wayne to Louis Armstrong, and that no-holds barred approach to writing and production has produced some of the most maddening, iconoclastic music to date. Their lofty ambition to flip the script on contemporary hip-hop was materialized in their 2016 mixtape “All American Trash” and 2017 debut “Saturation.” The latter was recorded and produced in three weeks at their Factory in South Central: 17 tracks that range from the seductive flows of the trap-next-door on “Fake,” to the horror-core sensibility of album opener “Heat,” to the lovelorn R&B crooner “Face.”

Going hard on distinctly West Coast bangers like “Gold” and then going way soft with the two-cent affirmations of “Milk” is part of both the group’s charm and dogma. At times, their attempts to break from sonic and cultural trends can come off corny and awkward. Even still, their flavor is undeniable, drawing from the formula of G-funk alchemists like DJ Quik and Dre, the fire-breathing confidence and musical flexibility of 2Pac and Kanye, a touch of Too $hort’s lazy swagger, and of course the most obvious comparison yet — the eclectic collectivism of Odd Future. Most Brockhampton fans cringe at the OF comparison, but the parallels are palpable: the similarity in tone and flows of Ameer Vann and Tyler, the Creator; the repeated references to sexual orientation by standout talent Kevin Abstract (see also: Tyler, Frank Ocean); the bright hues and patterns of both the members’ sartorial choices and DIY music video aesthetic, and themes culled from the realities of working within a genre that has been flanked for decades by controversy and prejudice.

Brockhampton’s follow-up to “Saturation” (released just two months ago), “Saturation II,” is slated to drop later this month. They have released three music videos from that record already; view two below, as well as some hits from the full-length:

||| Watch: “Swamp” and “Gummy” from “Saturation II”

||| Also: Watch “Gold” and “Boys” from “Saturation I”