Get to know Brockhampton, the hip-hop boy band of the future
Every generation has a boy band. Today, it’s Brockhampton, a group that formed in 2010 when rapper/singer/songwriter Kevin Abstract posted a note to Kanye forum KanyeToThe seeking bandmates. They’ve since grown to include 14 members. Some, like Kevin, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Joba, and bearface, act as vocalists and rappers, while others take on creative roles like producing and photography.
After a handful of acclaimed independent releases, the group is set to drop their first major label-backed project, Iridescence. The album follows the Saturation trilogy, and comes in the midst of a $15 million deal they signed with RCA in April.
To get you prepped for the new record — and Brockhampton’s inevitable world domination — we put together a primer on the group’s most essential songs, videos, and interviews.
Brockhampton has many moods, but “Boogie” is the group at their most hyped (and colorful). The Kevin Abstract-directed video features them running around a convenience store and pulling off a heist in orange jumpsuits and blue body paint. They wore the same Big Fat Liar-inspired getups when they performed “Boogie” in the middle of Times Square on TRL.
This song and the accompanying video are a good intro to Brockhampton’s ethos as the boy band with a brain. A defining verse from Kevin Abstract — “‘Why you always rap about bein’ gay?’ ‘Cause not enough n—–s rap and be gay” — and Matt Champion’s rhymes on rape culture, established early on that this was a group with purpose.
One of the most notable bops from the Saturation trilogy is accompanied by a video that captures the group’s fun, laid-back energy. Plus, the song features Merlyn Woods’ immortal and totally relatable line, “Poolside in Houston, tryna see if Beyoncé would take me for adoption.”
The video for this longing slow jam features rare smooth vocals from rapper Matt Champion (“I want a shirt that make my body feel all sexy/ I want a chain that make my body feel all hefty”) and takes place in a sort of meta-photo shoot set as the guys prep at a vanity and hang out in a bare warehouse space.
Narduwar interviews Brockhampton (2018)
Like any Narduwar interview, this one is a good deep dive into the group’s musical influences and fun facts. Jabari worked in a bank in Grenada when Brockhampton was formed? Kevin was on an Odd Future mixtape when he was 15? The Brockhampton house is haunted by the ghost of a formerly famous actress? Also they’re all legitimately excited to be interviewed by a legend, as HK remembers talking to Narduwar outside of a bad gig at SXSW in 2013. “I’ve watched so many Narduwar videos, I can’t believe I’m in one right now.”
“Bleach” – Novo performance (2018)
Their show at the Novo in Los Angeles earlier this year — where each member performed in bulletproof vests with all-caps labels like “FIEND” and “NOTHING,” all while a camouflage helicopter sat on stage — really showcases the group’s versatility. Merlyn raps his verse from “Bleach” over Kanye’s “Bound 2” beat, and Dom’s emotionally raw lyrics — “Do you make mistakes or do you make a change? / Or do you draw the line for when it’s better days?” — are amplified by the accompanying string section.
“Gold” – Reading + Leeds festival (2018)
Their performance at the Reading and Leeds festival in England last month — which the group described as “life changing” — shows just how large the Brockhampton fanbase has grown, as the thousands-deep crowd sing along to “Gold” (a song about, among other things, the virtues of wearing a gold chain).
“Tonya” – Tonight Show performance (2018)
The debut of this contemplative track was one of the group’s first appearances after former member Ameer Vann was let go following sexual misconduct allegations. The lyrics document their struggles with the pitfalls of fame: “I’ll trade fame any day/ For a quiet Texas place and a barbecue plate,” Kevin raps. The Jazmine Sullivan-assisted chorus — “And I’ve been feelin’ like I don’t matter how I used to” — adds to the musical group therapy session feel.
One of the most versatile singles leading up to Iridescence, “1998 Truman” includes an intro of Jim Jones screaming about the evils of capitalism (“You’re not free with your Cadillac!”) while Merlyn, Joba, Matt, and Dom spit lightning-fast verses about proving the doubters wrong — all while relaxing in a pool or on top of an abandoned car.
“1999 Wildfire” – Reading + Leeds festival (2018)
Also from the Reading and Leeds performance. While “1999 Wildfire” is the most laid back-sounding track of the group’s newest batch of singles, the lyrics touch on something darker: the haters that come with success. “Martin had a dream for a n—- like me/ To show up like this, why you gotta hate?” Dom raps. “Looking at my pace with your face screwed/ Hope it get stuck like this.”