How BROCKHAMPTON are inspiring a new generation of creatives.
Not many adventure stories begin on the internet, fewer yet on a Kanye West fan forum. This exception is BROCKHAMPTON, a genre-defying boy band all making music from the same Californian sofa. An example of how common ground and a creative drive can inspire artists, photographers and producers from all walks of life, founder Kevin Abstract, a 21 year-old musician and film-maker, is not be placed in a single box. Exploring self-doubt, sexuality, humour, family and fame, we reflect on Abstract’s inspirations, what it means to be part of our favorite boy band, and why we should all be listening to BROCKHAMPTON.
Three years ago, twelve friends placed reality on hold—moving into a six-bedroom house in LA. This shell is now the ‘BROCKHAMPTON FACTORY’. Remaining independent from a record label, 2017 saw BROCKHAMPTON release three albums in seven months; side-stepping industry convention, press releases and interview schedules. Quantity over quality? Nope! BROCKHAMPTON are doing it their way as Saturation I, II, and III, following their 2016 mixtape All-American Trash, continue to re-define the alt R&B & hip-hop scene—their narrative inspiring a new generation of suburban creatives.
Kevin Abstract (born Ian Simpson), a 21 year-old director, song-writer and rapper from Corpus Christi (Texas), left his Mormon home at 17 and immersed himself in music. His two independent albums: MTV1987 (2014) and American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story (2016) explore Abstract’s decision to disclose his homosexuality as a teenager; outlining his delicate relationship with his mother and insecurities as a gay African-American. These are both rare subject matters for a hip hop artist despite inclusion beginning at the heart of the hip hop movement.
Emerging from the Bronx funk & soul scene of the 1970s, hip hop and rap continue to evolve as a magnet for social issues—offering a progressive and affective voice for groups marginalized within society. However, female misogyny and LGBT discrimination blight subsets of the genre, with Gangster Rap controversially accused—exploding onto the mainstream in the early 1990s. Fast forward to 2018, as hip hop’s global popularity and influence within the ‘internet generation’ soars, inclusion in music and its message matter more than ever. Of note, Frank Ocean has helped define a new sound; idiosyncratic, artistic and raw. With no aim to be an LGBT symbol, but to express himself irrespective of his sexuality, race or background, Ocean is just one influence that has inspired Abstract and BROCKHAMPTON that they too can have a voice in hip hop.
Papercut reflects this voice; the premier track from Abstract’s breakthrough album: American Boyfriend. Over a Hotel California-esque guitar, Abstract’s verse: “And all them baddies all my favorite rappers rapped about; never made sense when them words played in my f****** house,” captures the disconnect felt by the new wave of hip hop listeners—less able to relate to bars about crime, fast cars and liquor bottles. This is complemented by the beauty and naivety of Echo. Referencing the cult 1980s sci-fi film ‘Back to the Future’, his words: “I’m locked outside of the DeLorean. He was a bad son; so he left home”, cleverly depict Abstract’s isolation in navigating his path to acceptance-far from the ideals bestowed by his family name.
BROCKHAMPTON - GOLD (Music video)
Directed by Kevin Abstract
DP - Ashlan Grey
Edit & Color - Henock Sileshi
Of the band’s DIY music videos, the colour, costume and naïve CGI of GOLD (SATURATION I) draw attention as their most watched reel. However, BROCKHAMPTON are best defined by the message and simplicity of their hand-held video: LAMB (from their demo tape: SATURATION DRAFTS). Opening with Robert Ontenient’s introduction: “y esta es mi familia” (“this is my family”), an outdoor sepia-soaked karaoke party ensues. The boy band’s commarody, hugs and smiling faces provide a refreshing break from the rap stereotype: no gold teeth and no dogs on leashes.
Brockhampton S/S 18
Photography by Ashlan Grey
So, where are BROCKHAMPTON heading in 2018? Having rocked Times Square with a performance of BOOGIE and the their new merch line: Gay, selling out in minutes, March saw BROCKHAMPTON end rumors that Saturation III is their last ‘studio album’–live streaming PUPPY–the sax & synth-infused title track from their soon-to-be fourth album with RCA records. A sound still as distinct, born in bedrooms and mixed on MacBooks, BROCKHAMPTON are steering clear from complacency and dollar signs on their ascension into hyperspace; focusing on what brought them together as friends - a love for music.
Written by Alex Farrow-Hamblen
Photographed by Ashlan Grey
Edited by Amelie Varzi