2017 was an incredible year for music. Tyler, The Creator returned with his critically acclaimed album Flower Boy, and artists like Sampha, Rex Orange County, Amine, and Harry Styles graced the audiences with their debut albums. However, if you were to try and pick a musical artist who definitively had the best 2017, there is truly only one answer; Brockhampton.
Currently the group is made up of 13 permanent members, specifically consisting of six vocalists; Kevin Abstract, Dom McLennon, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Joba, and Bearface. Most of the vocalists within the group have also released solo music, which is also worth checking out if you have the time. On top of that, the group also features producers, Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa, Kiko Merley, creative director Henock “HK” Sileshi, photographer Ashlan Grey, web designer and occasional skit narrator Robert “Roberto” Ontenient, and group manager Jon Nunes. The band also has a few non-official members, for example, vocalist Ryan Beatty has been a known associate and collaborator on a few Brockhampton songs.
Brockhampton is a musical collective based originally based out of Texas, now living in California. Producing, writing, and recording all of their music in-house, the group has garnered mass appeal over the course of 2017, however they began their joint career a few years prior. 2015 saw the group release three singles (Hero, Bet I, and Dirt) followed by their first official project, which came in March of 2016 with the release of their debut mixtape ALL-AMERICAN TRASH.This project flew under the radar for most, including myself. Personally, I did not discover ALL-AMERICAN TRASH until a little while after SATURATION II was released in the summer of 2017, in the lead up to their first tour that fall.
As for the content of this debut release, there are some real underrated songs that I would highly recommend casual fans or newcomers seek out and listen to if interested. Ben Carson is a hard-hitting banger similar to the aggressive singles HEAT and GUMMY from the Saturation era. Infatuation and Michigan (linked above) are two of the more well known tracks from this mixtape, both much softer excerpts. Lastly, the closing song on this album, Lost in Love, is probably one of their smoothest sounding songs to date and just sounds absolutely beautiful. Following the release of ALL-AMERICAN TRASH, but before the release of SATURATION, the group also went through some lineup changes.
The Saturation Era began with the group’s first release in the trilogy with SATURATION being released on June 9th, 2017.
In the lead-up to the album’s release Brockhampton released four singles; HEAT, FACE, STAR, and GOLD. All four of these songs would go onto become signature tracks from the group, and easily the most popular songs on the album itself. SATURATION clocks in at just under and hour and features a very diverse 17 tracks (3 of which are skits, a staple on all 3 of the SATURATION albums).
HEAT opens the album and right away thrusts listeners into the vast and vibrant world that the group has created with their unique and sometimes polarizing sound. Aggressive and in-your-face are probably the best ways to describe songs like HEAT and BUMP, easily two of the band’s most “hard” songs to date. STAR, another standout single, packs a powerful punch filled to the brim with pop culture references, with each line hitting harder than the last and leaving an impact on the listener.
On the other end of the spectrum, songs like FACE, MILK, and SWIM are some of the softest sounding Brockhampton songs, but are each equally as impactful as those mentioned above, with FACE even being used in the second season of the hit Netflix Original show Dear White People.
Along with unique and vastly different songs from any other band or group out there, Brockhampton has also achieved something special with their music videos. Each video has a distinct look and feel, with all videos from the Saturation Era being shot in the same aspect ratio. These releases were all connected through their openings, which feature the band’s web designer, Roberto, introducing the video in Spanish.
SATURATION II dropped on August 25th, 2017 and after much critical and fan acclaim was reached with their first album, the hype was at a very high level to say the least.
SWAMP, SWEET, and TOKYO all are easy to bob your head along to easily, with all three songs having some of the band’s catchiest hooks, and some real snazzy production, as well as having some great verses; Merlyn on SWEET, and Dom on TOKYO.
JUNKY is considered by most as one of the group’s best and most important songs, due in part to the lyrical content, the wild production, and each member’s contributions on the song (namely Matt Champion and Kevin Abstract, who both deliver some of their best work here).
Bearface also deserves some praise for all three of his album closers; WASTE, SUMMER, and TEAM. It is certainly an interesting move for a predominately hip-hop centered group to choose to close each of these albums with powerful, often beautiful, ballads from Bearface, but can not really be complained about, with all of them wrapping up each respective album nicely.
On December 15th, 2017 Brockhampton released the final album of the Saturation trilogy, SATURATION III. Prior to the album drop, the group released two singles; BOOGIE and STAINS. BOOGIE has since become one of the group’s most popular songs amongst casual and hardcore fans alike.
Songs like RENTAL, BLEACH, SISTER/NATION are all standouts, from this album. SISTER/NATION is one of the group’s most ambitious tracks, lasting about six minutes and being split into two distinct sections; SISTER, a heart-pounding banger, and NATION, a glaringly softer and overall more emotional excerpt from the album. Both BLEACH and NATION were featured in the group’s 22 minute short film BILLY STAR, released days before SATURATION III, which features Kevin Abstract’s “Helmet Boy” character, as well as the rest of the band. The short film itself is beautifully shot, with some impressive cinematography.
I also suppose it’s worth noting that the during the outro of the final track on SATURATION III, TEAM, ends with the opening sounds of HEAT from SATURATION, encouraging a full listen through between the album trilogy.
After the release of SATURATION III in December of 2017, Brockhampton followed up with the announcement of their next album entitled Team Effort, to be released in 2018. The group was also scheduled to embark on another North American tour during the early months of 2018, as well as performing at both weekends of Coachella. In the spring of 2018, the group announced that they had signed with RCA for $15 million for six albums over a 3 year span. At some point they also announced that Team Effort had been delayed indefinitely, but followed that by announcing another album, this time titled PUPPY.
Around the time of the Coachella performance, allegations came to light involving then-member Ameer Vann. This is not an article discussing or debating the issues surrounding that, so for the sake of this article, I am choosing to not go into that. However, following the allegations, on May 27th, 2018, Brockhampton issued a statement announcing the departure of Ameer from the group.
Following the departure of one of a key member to the group, there was a lot of speculation on the group’s future and what their new music would sound like. Fans waited in anticipation for any word or tease of new music after the announcement video of their signing to RCA in April. That wait would end in late June when the group appeared on Jimmy Fallon where the group announced their new album The Best Days of Our Lives and performed their first new music since December of 2017, with the song TONYA.
In July Brockhampton would surprise fans again by announcing their new radio show, Things We Lost in the Fire Radio, a show that as of this article being written is still in existence on Beats 1 on Apple Music. During the first episode the group premiered the song 1999 WILDFIRE and soon after dropped an accompanying music video, this time in a new format and different aspect ratio than their SATURATION videos.
The boyband was back in full force, with their fans eagerly awaiting more music, and soon after the new music drop, the group announced more shows and festival appearances and began to return to the spotlight. As of this writing two more singles have been released; 1998 TRUMAN and 1997 DIANA.
Each of the three singles from the aforementioned radio show all had similar titles, with years and movie references in the titles, yet each had their own very distinct sound. WILDFIRE was a softer sounding casual rap song. TRUMAN was a bonafide banger with aggressive production and vocals from each of the members before ending on a dreamlike sequence from Kevin and Bearface. And lastly, DIANA, can really only be compared to the experimental production on songs like SISTER/NATION and JUNKY, a very fast-paced, frantic, and short track featuring verses from Kevin, Dom, and Matt (and to some Romil).
In other words, Brockhampton has returned again, providing some of the most unique and vastly inspiring music being produced today in the Hip-Hop scene, with influences from genres across the board.
Brockhampton released IRIDESCENCE on September 21st, 2018. It reached #1 on the Apple Music charts, becoming the group’s first #1 album.