By Brian Brecker
With their 2016 mixtape, 14-member supergroup, BROCKHAMPTON, redefined the concept of a “boy band.” The group is made up of six vocalists — Kevin Abstract, Merlyn Wood, Joba, Matt Champion, Dom McLennon, and Bearface — and producers Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa, Kiko Merley, Henock Sileshi, Ashlan Grey, Robert Ontenient, Jon Nunes, and Kevin Doan.
The band found its humble beginnings on a Kanye West fan forum in 2010, when Kevin Abstract made a post asking if anyone was willing to start a band with him. They released their first mixtape, “All-American Trash,” in 2016. The next year, they were inspired to release three full-length albums, the “SATURATION” trilogy, over a 12-month span, which broke BROCKHAMPTON into the mainstream.
The road to a fourth album release this year, however, has been anything but smooth.
The first album idea after “SATURATION III” was titled “TEAM EFFORT,” but due to new creative inspiration was delayed indefinitely for a project called “PUPPY.” The group teased new content with a promotional song called “Let’s Get Married.”
BROCKHAMPTON then made a multimillion dollar deal to be picked up by Sony-owned record company, RCA. It was around this time, however, that one of their founding members, Ameer Vann, was accused by several women of sexual assault, resulting in his removal from the group and a definitive end to the “PUPPY” project.
After that, BROCKHAMPTON went on several tours with Vann absent, and eventually regrouped to release three singles, “1999 WILDFIRE,” “1998 TRUMAN,” and “1997 DIANA.”
On Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” in June, the group performed the song “Tonya.” The numbered songs were samples from their anticipated album, “THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.”
BROCKHAMPTON, after a London tour, decided to make a new album at Abbey Road Studios entitled “Iridescence.” The album has now become part of an alleged “THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES” trilogy of albums. “Tonya” will be on “Iridescence,” and presumably the previous 2018 singles will be on the second part of this new trilogy.
The new material helped prove to audiences that BROCKHAMPTON, even without Vann on the team, can still continue to deliver the same musical quality as before. “1998 TRUMAN” in particular thrilled fans with a fantastic switch-up near the end of the song into a ballad.
Joba has proven himself to be more than a pop singer with an impressive rap verse on the track, and Vann’s absence has given Bearface the opportunity to hone his songwriting chops. There’s also a sense of new-found maturity and risk-taking in these new songs. Vann’s departure, described by members of the group as a “betrayal,” has seemed to make them come out of the controversy even stronger.
As they enter this new era of their musical career, Kevin Abstract’s directing style has also become more advanced. In the group’s music videos, he now utilizes less color saturation and a tighter aspect ratio.
The zaniness of the original “SATURATION” trilogy is still imbued in BROCKHAMPTON’s new sound, but they appear now more willing to experiment with darker and moodier sounds. At the start of “1998 TRUMAN,” for instance, there is a sample from a speech by cult leader Jim Jones.
The personalities of each performer are just as apparent, if not more so. Listeners can expect the new BROCKHAMPTON album, “Iridescence,” on Sept. 21.