After traveling for four hours and waiting two hours outside Irving Plaza in the cold, I finally got to see Brockhampton play live.
Brockhampton (stylized as BROCKHAMPTON) is a hip-hop group and a self-proclaimed boy band formed in San Marco, Texas in 2015. I got hooked as soon as I heard “GOLD” off of their debut album, “SATURATION,” which dropped in June 2017. It’s so catchy and well-produced that I was surprised it came from an indie group and not a record label. Each member brought something different to the table, which kept the album fresh. It was an impressive debut and their ambition for the year made me certain they had untapped potential.
Brockhampton has always had an inclusive message. Founding member Kevin Abstract is gay and consistently raps about how these topics are shunned by the rap community.
“I told my mom I was gay, why the fuck she ain’t listen?,” Abstract rapped on “JUNKY.” “Why you always rap about bein’ gay?/ Cause not enough n***** rap and be gay.”
Many of the other members have verses that speak on depression, socio-economic issues, racism and police brutality. They also have lighter songs, but it’s important that they highlight these issues because their platform grows bigger every day.
Their label as a boy band stresses how the term can be genre-bent. At the end of the day, they are undermining the music industry and providing a unique message, while proving they are more than just a band.
The roots for Brockhampton were planted in 2010 when Abstract posted in the KanyeLive forum (now known as Kanye To The) looking for people who wanted to be in a band. After multiple responses, Abstract formed AliveSinceForever with Ameer Vann, Dom McLennon and MiC Kurb. They released an EP, but eventually broke up and rebranded as Brockhampton with all but Kurb remaining.
The group quickly bolstered its roster to include 14 members, but not all of them perform. Their duties range from musical roles like performing and producing to visual roles like graphic design, photography and creative direction. Taking inspiration from Odd Future, the group handles every aspect of their music and their image.
In 2016 they released their first mixtape, “All-American Trash.” This was soon followed by the Viceland series “American Boyband,” which highlighted the do-it-yourself nature behind their production. In addition to “Saturation,” the group released “Saturation II” and “Saturation III” in 2017.
Seemingly overnight, the group grew in popularity and each album garnered more critical acclaim than its predecessor. On Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, “Saturation II” peaked at No. 57 and “Saturation III” climbed to No. 15. They plan to release their fourth album, “Team Effort,” later this year.
Their current nationwide tour, the Love Your Parents Tour, began on Jan. 17 and will end on March 7. I saw them on Feb. 9 and the show was splendid.
They knew how to keep the energy going and play the crowd, a quality I feel is underrated in live shows. This included talking to the crowd, demanding mosh pits as the beat drops and hanging off the balcony. They also shouted out Anthony Fantano, a popular music blogger who attended the show — and whom I, of course, snuck a picture with — and is mentioned in “ZIPPER.”
They performed hits from the entire trilogy but stressed songs off of their latest album like “BLEACH.” This song in particular is slower than the rest of the album, and speaks on the issues that affect the anxiety and mental health of the group members. The chorus begins: “Who got the feeling?/ Tell me why I cry when I feel it/ Tell me why.” Hearing the crowd sing these emotions and watching the band encourage them gave the venue a general sense of togetherness. It’s comforting to see feelings you have reflected by a band, but even more uplifting when it’s a crowd of people.
All in all, it was fun to hear those songs live because I believe it’s important that they exist. I’m bisexual and I’ve had mental health issues, and even if it’s somewhat of a cliche to say, “I love them because they’re like me, I’m not alone,” that’s how I feel, and I think that connection is necessary. There aren’t many bands that touch on these marginalized issues and to watch Brockhampton grow to include a more mainstream audience gives me hope for all of those confused souls.