“I made BROCKHAMPTON because I didn’t have any friends.”
In the opening to the new VICELAND show about his crew, American Boyband, which premiered last night (June 8), Kevin Abstract chose to keep his group’s origin story uncomplicated.
A collective of multi-media artists, BROCKHAMPTON was formed through connections made on KanyeToThe.com. Now, the twelve group members live together in a modest home in South Central, LA, and watching the opening sequences of American Boyband, the “BROCKHAMPTON Factory” plays out like an artistic version of Fight Club’s Project Mayhem.
The house is alive and buzzing with creativity and comradery; song parts are being recorded, videos are being edited and several people are fucking around in the kitchen. The energy is palpable, and it’s clear the collective has developed a functional autonomy that allows the cogs to operate independently while still powering towards the group's overarching goal.
Over the past several weeks the group has teased their upcoming second mixtape in the form of fantastic records like “FACE” and “HEAT,” and late last night, that build up culminated in the release of Saturation inalmost perfect unison with the premiere of the collective’s quirky take on a documentary-style TV show.
The intention of this basketball-team-sized outfit is to dominate the attention of anyone willing to take a peek behind the curtain, and on Saturation, the art they’ve masterfully created all but ensures continued captivation.
Three Standout Songs:
It's worth noting that at my current level of familiarity with BROCKHAMPTON, I usually have no idea who’s performing on these tracks unless it’s Kevin Abstract himself, but in no way does that hinder my appreciation of the tunes pouring into my ears. If anything, my experience lends itself to my previous comparison of BROCKHAMPTON to Project Mayhem. The individual names aren’t important, it’s the entity of the group, formed in their coalescence, that ultimately matters; the individual attention will come later.
The Odd Future comparisons will already be strong with BROCKHAMPTON—especially considering the group is managed by former OF husband and wife management duo Chris and Kelly Clancy—but “HEAT” is as close as we get to any sonic similarities.
“HEAT” is the crunchy, abrasive opener on Saturation and as much as the beat sounds like it could’ve been on OF's Radical, the performances splayed across its menacing instrumental are as disparate as BROCKHAMPTON’s existence. Aggressive raps, island inflections and bleak imagery swirl into a noxious gumbo on “HEAT” in a raucous display that takes your attention hostage with a rusty knife that happens to have a rainbow sticker wrapped around the handle.
The diversity of BROCKHAMPTON’s contributing members could easily have been the very circumstance that kept them from achieving sonic coherency, but on “CASH,” it’s clear that the collective has achieved a 360-degree understanding of their grab-bag of influences and backgrounds, allowing them to combine sounds and styles in a way that seems crazy on paper but sounds wonderful in practice.
Driven by simple guitar string plucks and plodding drums, “CASH” converges the musical stylings of the collective into something entirely new, but deceptively familiar. The song sounds like Raury collaborating with UGK and Two-9. If that comparison sounds all-the-fuck-over the place, that’s because BROCKHAMPTON is just that, but in the best way possible.
Throughout my journey listening to Saturation, I was most impressed with the work of Belfast, Ireland singer/producer bearface., whose angelic vocals on the project's final track stood out from the crowd.
A somber solo appearance by bearface. on “Waste” closes out Saturation on a completely different note than the one in which it started. Gone are the hyper-aggressive bars and crunchy basslines, replaced by the vocal vulnerabilities of bearface., bolstered by a sultry background of live instrumentation that manages to wipe clean the excitement felt journeying through the project’s 17 tracks, and replacing it with a calm reflection that serves as a perfect bookend to the sonic odyssey listeners undoubtedly just experienced.
BROCKHAMPTON may be a collective, but there’s a stigma attached to that word that implies a looseness or revolving door mentality that often hinders its namesake from achieving true cohesion. BROCKHAMPTON isn’t a collective in the regular sense of the word, and Saturation is far from a mixtape in that same sense.
This is an album by a close-knit group, a musical family that’s figured out the strengths and weaknesses of all its members and thrown them into a smelting furnace to achieve a steel stronger than any of its contributing ores. BROCKHAMPTON, from a dynamic standpoint anyway, seem more like The Roots than Odd Future, their close quarters having clearly produced a comfortability that allows for a true artistic meritocracy.
With Saturation, BROCKHAMPTON has cemented themselves as a force to behold, the next in an all-too-short line of examples in which groups manage to fully realize their dynamic potential.