A Comprehensive Guide to BROCKHAMPTON

When the words “boy band” slip into your thoughts, what comes to mind? Justin Timberlake with frosted tips? Maybe “Backstreet's back, alright!” just invaded your psyche. Perhaps some attractive British teenagers are running towards you on a beach in denim capris and polo shirts. Wherever your memories roam, the classic idea of a boy band usually equates five or six white guys singing pop music and smiling on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine.

Allow me to introduce a new rendition of the boy band: BROCKHAMPTON. This creative collective is comprised of 15 members and includes rappers, singers, producers, visual artists, web designers, and much more. Their music includes earth-shaking beats, weirdo rap, hip-hop, and R&B influence. The group is currently based out of Los Angeles, and live in the “Brockhampton Factory” house in North Hollywood. Ian Simpson—better known by his stage name Kevin Abstract—is the 21 year-old mastermind behind its formation, pulling everyone together as a visionary and leader. A few of the founding members are from the greater Houston, Texas area, and even went to the same high school. The rest of the guys met on an online Kanye West fan forum, stemming everywhere from Grenada and Ireland to Florida and Connecticut.

The group agrees that beyond the internet, art, and music, BROCKHAMPTON feels like a family. In a 2017 interview with The Fader, Kevin said “A lot of these people came into my life at a time I needed them most, so it's like my actual family. They've helped me get through a lot.” Kevin had big dreams for the collection since the start, and continues to work hard with his bandmates to branch BROCKHAMPTON into a record label, media company, and artistic group. They’ve become the “best boyband since One Direction,” as he raps in the opening track from Saturation III, “Boogie”. Kevin noted in The Fader interview that companies like Def Jam and Apple are his biggest inspirations for success.

It’s no mystery that each member of the collective is talented, some of the musicians have even released music independently, Kevin having the largest library so far. The group landed a docu-series in 2017 with Viceland titled American Boyband that followed Kevin on his cross-country tour for his solo album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story. Watching the group work through growing pains and trials is inspirational and has garnered them a loyal fan base all over the world. If time has told us anything, it’s that BROCKHAMPTON is here to stay, and they’re stronger together. Now that some basics have been introduced, here’s a run-down on each member:

Ian Simpson a.k.a. Kevin Abstract

We have Kevin to thank for BROCKHAMPTON. Without him, it’s likely the group wouldn’t have formed or become the success it is today. His drive for notoriety is endless. The openness surrounding his sexuality is inspirational for a lot of young people, and the fact that Kevin delivers his message through innovative music is even better.  

Ameer Vann

Ameer’s face is the cover art for all three Saturation albums. His smile is to die for, and his verses are even better. Ameer can deliver both slow and fast raps flawlessly; His verse in “Gold” is smooth, sexy, and funny. He’s become one of the most prominent faces and voices of BROCKHAMPTON.

Merlyn Wood

Merlyn often talks about his choice to drop out of college to pursue his dream and move to L.A. with the band. Whether it’s drinking straight from a Slushie machine in the video for “Boogie” or bathing in a tub full of cereal for “Junky”, Merlyn’s energy is uncontained and contagious.

Dominic Michael Simpson a.k.a. Dom McLennon

Arguably the best rapper in the collective, Dom’s flow is versatile and always deserves a second listen to grasp the depth of his lyrics. He contributes an amazing energy on stage and plays a large role in a lot of the music videos.

Matt Champion

Matt raps and sings with equal talent, and his smooth, deep voice heard in tracks like “Sweet”, “Heat”, and “Boys” makes everyone swoon. His moments are filled with personal anecdotes and wit. Whether he contributes a soft melody to the background or is the song’s center rapper, his voice is always recognizable.

Russell Boring a.k.a. Joba

Known as the “wildcard” of BROCKHAMPTON, Joba’s role in a song is always a surprise. He delivers lovely vocals on the track “Face”, pure anger on “Heat”, and manic intensity in “Boogie”. As a tall white guy, he literally stands out, but his talent and versatility truly sets him apart.

Ciaran Ruaridh McDonald a.k.a. Bearface

Bearface is behind most of the melodic vocals on tracks like “Summer” and “Waste”. He’s been rather shy to the public, and doesn’t step in the spotlight often, but we get glimpses of him from social media. He delivers a great performance singing with an acoustic guitar during live shows.

Romil Hemnani

Romil serves as the DJ at the BROCKHAMPTON shows. He’s the producer behind a lot of the songs and beats that the group is best known for. In the Viceland show, Romil’s personality and energy was really fun to watch. Maybe it’s irrelevant, but he also sports the most luscious eyebrows on planet earth.

Jabari Manwa

Hailing from Grenada, 22 year-old Jabari makes one half of the production duo Q3. He’s been behind the production of multiple tracks from all of BROCKHAMPTON’s projects.

Kiko Merley

The second half of Q3, Kiko works as a team with Jabari to produce the killer music of the band. A 21 year-old from Jacksonville, Kiko is one of many members that made the big move to L.A.

Henok Sileshi a.k.a. HK

HK was one of the center personalities on the group’s Viceland show. He’s is in charge of creative direction and design for the band. HK contributes to the stunning visuals of the collective’s music videos, stage, and image.

Ashlan Grey

As the allusive photographer of all things BROCKHAMPTON, photos of Ashlan himself are almost impossible to find. His talent behind the camera is unparalleled, and we can thank him for bringing top-notch images of the band and their lives.

Robert Ontenient

Roberto presenta cada video musical en español. Él es un diseñador web de Miami, y ayuda la banda con sus imagen y visuales. También, él contribuye en los álbumes por sketches cuando habla una historia aleatoria de cualquier tipo en español.

Jon Nunes

As the manager for BROCKHAMPTON, Jon is organized and reminds the group about deadlines and responsibilities both on tour and at home. His role is vital, even if he’s behind the scenes most of the time.

Nick Lenzini a.k.a. Nick Holiday

Nick controls and designs the merch for BROCKHAMPTON. He also founded the clothing brand Holiday, which releases limited edition pieces only on holidays. His designs are self-aware and appeal to internet culture and fans of the niche, logo-centric brands that are popular on social media.

So far, BROCKHAMPTON has 4 projects out, comprised of a mixtape titled All-American Trash and a trilogy of studio albums: Saturation, Saturation II, and Saturation III. They aren’t slowing down any time soon and have already announced their next studio LP, Team Effort, will be released later this year. Saturation II and Saturation III both landed spots on the Billboard Top 200 chart shortly after their releases, peaking at number 57 and 15 respectively. The collective has stayed independent, and have used the last two years to improve themselves and grow together. BROCKHAMPTON has the incredible ability to mask each other’s weaknesses while amplifying their strengths.

I can honestly say I haven’t heard a song from BROCKHAMPTON that I don’t like, although I’ll admit their style can be an acquired taste. Each track has a beat to shake your core if it’s loud enough and most tracks incorporate a dreamy element somewhere in the chorus, intro, or outro. One of the most refreshing aspects of their music library is how authentic the artists are about their feelings and experiences. Matt condemns rape culture, Joba speaks on his breakups and medications, Ameer raps about racism in his Woodlands, TX high school, Merlyn talks about being one of the only black men at his college, and that’s just scratching the surface.  Kevin is openly gay, and mentions this part of his identity on multiple occasions. In an interview with LA Weekly Kevin said he raps about his sexuality to “speak for the people who can’t speak”. He raps about being gay on many songs, most notably “Star” from Saturation and “Junky” from Saturation II. While these are both rap-heavy, intense tracks, Kevin’s more subdued solo album is centered on being a black, gay man and all of the battles that come with it.

The imaginative visuals of BROCKHAMPTON compliment their music and create an entire quirky universe for fans to experience. Their music videos are available on YouTube, and include everything from bank heist narratives to U-Hauls and green screen oddities. Although each video is different from the last, the style and energy are consistent, usually including a lot of movement, bold colors, and props. The biggest commonality is Robert introducing each video with “Mi llamo Roberto. . .” and telling the audience something ridiculous like “estamos buscando a Jaden Smith,” before the song starts and segues into shots of the other band members.

Alright, so 15 members and a multi-faceted brand is a lot to take in. Not to mention four music projects to listen to, and multiple solo careers available on streaming platforms as well. I would suggest starting with the music videos. They’re a perfect way to see each artist in action, and listen to the most popular songs from the Saturation trilogy. The energy of BROCKHAMPTON is incomparable to any other group today. Because they’re all best friends living and working in the same house, the motivation to improve and create is always present. I’m beyond excited to see what the future holds for BROCKHAMPTON. I imagine only amazing things can follow such a strong and unique induction to the music world.

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