2017, god DAMN. What a year for hip-hop lovers. What was once a genre has become a rapidly evolving culture of sub-genres, and 2k17 will be known as a milestone for trap hop’s popular appeal.
Increasing numbers of youth bumping the dominating snares of the 808 have made it near impossible for “haters” to avoid the trap. On a personal note, I think A$AP Mob (particularly Ferg) did a great job of balancing elements of the old, the new, the bougie, and the grimy. K-Dot’s “DAMN.” didn’t meet my expectations, but I can’t be alone in feeling my neck starting to get sore from watching these guys fly so high. That’s when I found a pleasant surprise hatch from the tender nest of the ‘net.
Enter BROCKHAMPTON, or for those over 35, the millennial blue boy band. Their history begins on the dark pages of a Kanye West fanbase forum. The group started out as AliveSinceForever in 2010, through artist Kevin Abstract’s [IN FAR LEFT] spontaneous forum post calling upon others to form a band.
Only releasing one mix-tape, known as “The ASF EP” in March 2013, they soon rebranded into BROCKHAMPTON. Named after Kevin Abstract’s childhood home’s street in Corpus Christi, Texas, the group currently consists of a whopping 14 members.
Soon after their low-key release of mix-tape “All-American Trash” in 2016, the group came together in Kevin Abstract’s Atlanta home to take their art to the next level. Spending several months in nonstop production (funded by Kevin Abstract’s cash flow as an up and coming solo act), the house filled to bursting with creative enterprise.
Utilizing the various talents of their members in video and graphic design, the group promoted their upcoming releases through endearing low budget music videos, tasteful album cover concepts on singles, and a documentary archiving the creative process (publicly available on youtube).
Oh yeah, and Kevin Abstract? The band’s lead vocals and creative director, is also an unapologetic homosexual. While it makes for an eye-catching header, it shouldn’t be the focal point of their acclaim (and especially not their critique). Sure they rap about it, switching “bitch” with “nigga” on a bar about fellatio is hilarious, but I enjoy above all their uncompromising, raw artistry. Their grind gave birth to three consecutive album releases within the last six months of the year, and what a ride. The “SATURATION” trilogy is aptly named.
Yet the albums themselves defy labels. Each boasts 15 or more tracks, all of iconic style, both foreign and familiar. From “HEAT,” to “GUMMY,” to “BOOGIE,” each opening track is an exceptional example of how to hype the room. In my short time appreciating their music (brief recognition of S1 in August, livid fanaticism of S2 in October, and critical apprehension of S3 in December), I’ve found myself enjoying the tracks that headline their releases more than those that follow.
That is to say, these tracks are best for conventional listening; creating a flex zone with your intoxicated friends. However, there is a lot of diversity in and between each album. With five producers on the team, they have no lacking for creative mojo. A blessing and a curse, as I find myself desiring more consistency. BROCKHAMPTON opted to present signature, yet fluid, styles for their 2017 releases.
Instead of presenting all facets of their sound in each album, maybe I would have preferred a signature sound dedicated to each release. The isolated installments of the “SATURATION” trilogy present a narrative in sonic form, opening with the careless bravado typical of rap/hip-hop, transitioning into softer, more reflective tones, and then jumping to and fro in ways you’d not expect.
I concede that for what they do, BROCKHAMPTON does it well. There is something for everyone here, such that even those who traditionally dislike hip-hop may discover something new to appreciate. Ranks? S2>S1>S3.