If rap history gets it right, we will remember 2017 as the year of Brockhampton’s legendary run of music. If pop history gets it right, we’ll remember 2017 as the year Brockhampton claimed their place as the definitive boyband for outsider youths.
Both Saturation and Saturation II have been artistic triumphs, revealing a group whose hard work and raw talent overcomes fatigue from quantity of material. However, Saturation II is inarguably their strongest project yet, feeling like the album they’ve been heading towards since their inception. For the most part, the album forgoes the group’s sweeter, sensitive balladry and goes further with their hard-hitting weirdness, the likes the ‘Jello’ and ‘Chick’ are among their most eccentric tracks to date, while ‘Fight’ and ‘Junky’ prove their ability to craft harrowing scenes via lyrics.
Stylistically Saturation II is not what comes to mind alongside the word boyband, but, when you look at the way they function, it’s clear that they aren’t the One Direction of rap collectives, but instead the Odd Future of boybands. When Brockhampton calls themselves a boyband, they’re not playing up to millennials’ beloved irony, their making their goals clear, naming One Direction as their contemporaries, which group leader Kevin Abstract has admitted himself: “When you mention Bieber, Lorde, One Direction: I want to be on that list. But at the same time, when you say Lil Uzi Vert, I want my name to pop up too.”. It’s not surprising they’d aspire for this stature, given that the young members would’ve grown up in a time where NSYNC and Backstreet Boys are more definitive figures than Biggie and 2Pac. Playfully sleek vocalist Joba is speaking the truth on ‘Sweet’ when he says he “wanted to be JT.”
Like any great boyband, Brockhampton brings together distinct personalities and vocal tones to the group, but without relying on the archetypes we’d expect, instead their musical personalities are fully fleshed out. Ameer Van’s menacing charisma, Merlyn Wood’s hyped eccentricity and Dom McLennon’s rapid dependability all cater to different fan taste the same way we can pick our favourite member of One Direction. Saturation II begins with the spitting and spookiness of ‘Gummy’ and closes with Bearface’s lone, crooning ballad, ‘Summer’, with the music in-between proving that the group have an almost boyband-like approach to constantly trying on different musical styles, – with a similar fondness for balladry – while simultaneously creating their most cohesive record yet.
Brockhampton fans, affectionately called dumbass by Kevin Abstract, may not be the same people that are drawn to boybands, but they’re similarly obsessive. They instead appeal to young outsiders going through the same issues the group constantly address within their music. It’s why older music journalist fail to understand their appeal, with lyrics heavily focusing on feelings of depression, not fitting in and apathy toward being in the education system, issues which are less prevalent in the lives of a more comfortable older generation.
This fanbase has been essential in their continued ascent, forcing Saturation II into the iTunes top 20 on release and ensuring a constant progression in YouTube views, there’s a sense that the Brockhampton fanbase is getting bigger and more vocal each day. On Twitter, in jokes and memes are frequent ensuring they’re a healthy part of the conversation on social networks. Kevin’s now iconic “Why you always rap about bein’ gay?” lyric from ‘Junky’ led to a bunch of pseudo mocking, seeing dumbass being supportive by hitting out against the very people the lyric was intended for in the first place.
Brockhampton labelling themselves as a boyband isn’t about committing to a joke, but instead finding the label that suits them best. So, stop calling them a rap crew or collective, as the boyband title best fits the imagery of a group of young vocalists creating music that speaks to a similarly young audience. Besides, the video for ‘Follow’ proves that they’ve nailed those dance routines.