By Bryony Holdsworth
Formed in San Marcos, Texas in 2015, Brockhampton came to life in an online forum and 2017 saw the release of three studio albums- mere months apart. The Saturation trilogy has caused a seismic shift in the classic definition of ‘boyband’, flipping the script to include black and queer narratives. Led by Kevin Abstract, Saturation III is a politically charged stream of consciousness, encapsulating social struggles and the racial disparity in contemporary America.
The album opens with track ‘Boogie’, a noisy barrage of sirens and alarms amalgamating to create the musical backdrop. The song pokes fun at the teenage mania surrounding contemporary boybands, and bolsters the most popular post on the group’s social media: “One Direction died so Brockhampton could live”. It seems so important to attribute this title to them, purely so they can disrupt societal norms and pave the way for those breaking into this hybrid industry of pop meets hip hop.
Boybands are usually characterised by their synchronised dance moves and coordinating outfits and it seems Brockhampton’s addition to this aesthetic is pigmented blue face paint. This visual appeal is nourished by their humble Tumblr beginnings, maintaining the artistic attraction of the social platform. This has evolved into founding member, Kevin Abstract, proudly rapping about his bisexuality in track ‘STUPID’, addressing the prevalent use of homophobic slurs in rap music: “While they stuck on their day shift, I hate my boyfriend’s fragrance / I’m a faggot, I say it, I scream that shit like I mean it”.
With seven prominent vocalists in the group, each track can veer uncontrollably between musical genres, and yet it doesn’t feel illogical. The opening hook on track ‘HOTTIE’ is technically accomplished and groovy, intertwining personal dialogue from five members of the band and successfully uniting their unique rap flow. The album twists and turns through a highly charged political agenda, and this is heightened in track ‘LIQUID’. Brockhampton has fourteen active members, and therefore the listener is given a personal perspective from a hugely diverse background. Ameer Vann takes the lead in this track, weaving together issues of poverty, mental illness and racial disproportionality: “I’m used to ramen noodles, victims of mental illness / Products of neighbourhoods with broken souls and wounded spirits”. It’s a short confessional track from the rapper, shedding light on their lives before the birth of Brockhampton plunged them into fame.
Even the character length of the song titles holds substance. The first album of the trilogy featured track names four characters in length, with the exception of the final record ‘WASTE’- a feature which then spread to Saturation II and III. This may seem like an insignificant detail considering the scope of talent showcased on the album, and yet it accentuates the cyclical nature of the trilogy. The final track ‘TEAM’, a soulful, acoustic ballad, not only breaks away from the six letter scheme but also ends with the same sample as the introductory track on Saturation. The life cycle of this series is perpetual, tying a neat bow around the bands enormously successful internet project.