Brockhampton: Redefining the ‘Boyband’

The multifaceted hip-hop collective which charted at Number 1 on billboard’s top 200 – whilst being in the midst of a #MeToo scandal.

Brockhampton are best described as an alternative hip-hop group compiled of six vocalists and eight assisting members such as producers and managers. The main members consist of (left to right) Dom Mclennon, Merlyn Wood, frontman Kevin Abstract, Romil Hemnani (producer), Joba, Matt Champion and finally Bearface. Since their creation in 2015 as an offshoot from Abstract’s previous group AliveSinceForever, the group released their first mixtape All American Trash which showed only a snippet of the talent to come. Shortly after the release of AAT the group moved from their shared home in San Marcos, Texas to South Central LA after Abstract decided that it was a necessary action in order for the group to grow and consistently make content. The collective insist that they are a boyband not a rap group.

In the span of a year, the group released three albums (Saturation 1,2 and 3) with accompanying music videos, the docu-series All American Boyband which aired on Viceland, as well as their self-titled Saturation video journal which documented the creation of each album. Brockhampton have created their own space in today’s hip-hop scene through their versatility as a group, with each member possessing wildly different characteristics that culminate in a melting pot of distinctive sounds all stemming from different influences. Fan favourite ‘SWEETfrom Saturation 2 distils the respective talent of each member into arguably the groups most popular song.

The boyband rocketed to the peak of Billboard’s ‘Top 200’ after releasing their fourth studio album Iridescence in September. This achievement came within the midst of turmoil for the group after they were forced to drop, now ex-member, Ameer Vann following the numerous sexual assault allegations that rose to light involving the rapper and his past relations. In late May, a statement was released declaring that Ameer was no longer part of the group and that the other members of the group were “lied to”; they then cancelled the remainder of their US tour in effort to regroup. Since then, the group released three new singles before producing Iridescence at Abbey Road studios in London. Below is the song ‘J’ouvert’ which features on Iridescence.

The Boys

Dom Mclennon (far left) has been a member from the AliveSinceForever days, and is arguably the most technically talented rapper of the group with the ability to switch his pace and styles song by song. Dom is the poet of the group; his lyrics have deep emotional meaning, and you’ll soon find that the more you listen to his verses, the more impactful they become. Despite this, Dom is still able to craft verses with the sole intention of being amusing, such as on STAR’ in Saturation.

Merlyn Wood (second left) can be simply played off as the most humorous, energetic and loud member of Brockhampton, yet there is more than meets the eye. Originally from Ghana, Merlyn joined the group after dropping out of university in order to pursue music. Despite his loud and boisterous delivery, Merlyn’s lyrics touch on the hardships of growing up as an African American, speaking on topics such as day-to-day racism and the shooting of innocents – as shown on his verse in HEATon Saturation. Merlyn’s specialty is the energy he brings to his performances both in the studio and on stage; no other member can match him.

Kevin Abstract (left middle) cannot be described simply, he’s a singer with an extensive solo career, a rapper who consistently produces memorable hooks, a director of his mini-series ‘Helmet boy’ and the de-facto lead of Brockhampton. As a homosexual man, Kevin has struggled with discrimination, rejection and abuse throughout his life, and to this day is still one of the only gay rappers in mainstream music. However, he uses his experiences in life to craft impactful verses as seen on Weightand JUNKYwhich feature on Iridescence and Saturation 2 respectively.

Romil Hemnani’s (middle) ability to create hard beats arguably forms the bedrock of Brockhampton. Being a long-term friend of Kevin, Romil has been part of the group since the beginning. He’s produced and co-produced nearly all the songs in Brockhampton’s inventory, often being assisted by ‘Q3’ – the groups other resident producers. Despite not being a performing member of the group, he has been vital to their biggest successes such as ZIPPERon Saturation 3.

Joba (right middle) brings a versatility to the group with styles that shift from song to song, sometimes delivering maniacal verses that contain a feeling of insanity, and sometimes singing emotional ballads with piercing lyrics. Joba joined the group back in Texas after attending the same high school as many of the other members. Whilst still being able to deliver some of the group’s best verses, Joba also lends a hand to the production of songs. To describe him in one word, Joba is the group’s wildcard. A showing of his more emotional side can be seen in FACEon Saturation.

Matt Champion (second right) is the most consistent member of the group, with more than a handful of memorable performances. Matt joined the group after working with Romil and Joba. Since then, he featured on many early songs from the group, as well as building up his own solo career. Matt’s west coast style never fails to disappoint, with lyrics that touch on social issues such as the rape culture in today’s world – shown on the latter half of JUNKYincluded above. Aside from his rapping, Matt is also able to deliver melancholic vocals with an unmissable sense of raw emotion, best shown in RENTALon Saturation 3.

Finally, Bearface (far left) is possibly the most underrated member of the boyband. With only a number of appearances across the discography, he still manages to make himself noticed as he closes out every album with his skilled guitar playing and raw, unforgettable voice. Bearface is the only non-US citizen being from Belfast, Northern Island. With influences ranging from King Krule to Mac Demarco, Bearface brings a new dynamic to the group with ballads that act as a palate cleanser from the rap which dominates their discography. With the arrival of Iridescence, we’ve seen Bearface take on a bigger role in the group, with rap verses on many of the main songs in the album. However, his shining moment for me, is TEAMon Saturation 3.

Brockhampton’s ability to bring together a range of styles through the versatility of its members is what makes them so unique. Brockhampton is different, ambitious, all-inclusive, original, experimental, grungy and over the top. With their recent signing to RZA records and the announcement of The Best Years Of Our Lives trilogy, the future of the group will be an exciting one – and hopefully one where they achieve the recognition they deserve.

Jonah German

Header Image via DIY Mag