January 31, 2018
Every generation of music has a group that redefines the industry standard. When it comes to rap and hip-hop, the predecessors are clear. Wu-Tang Clan set the bar for a rap collective, and they set it high. The years since have shown listeners that anything is possible when great minds come together. Odd Future proved to the world that completely different genres could thrive within one group, achieving unprecedented success along the way in terms of branding and media diversity. In 2018, the San Marcos, Texas group Brockhampton are here to blaze the trail into new territory, setting themselves apart from the norm with every chance they get. Redefining the industry as “the Internet’s first boy band” after forming on an online Kanye West fan forum several years ago.
Troves of fans gathered at The Ritz in Raleigh on Monday night to see how the self-proclaimed fourteen-member boy band would perform in a live setting, creating a perfect storm of mystery and anticipation amongst the devoted attendees, some even donned in the same orange jumpsuits and blue face paint that Brockhampton have become known for. The excitement built as the minutes waned on, with small pockets of fans starting group chants that overtook the enormous room before exploding into uproarious applause time and time again to no avail. Finally, the house lights faded out entirely. One man dressed in a black hoodie with a surgical mask and headlamp covering his face walked out onto the stage to greet a deafening wall of sound. He sauntered from one end to the other, igniting two traffic lights that shone like beacons in an otherwise pitch-black room before he moved to center-stage, shirked his hoodie, and slipped into the famous orange jumpsuit, revealing an ear-to-ear grin from behind his face mask to set off the beginning of an unforgettable show.
The lights flared, sending beams of purple and yellow all throughout the venue as the rest of the group ran out to join their lone counterpart, weaving in and out of the chairs, couch, and television set positioned with them on stage. The crowd, unable to contain themselves any longer, burst into a frenzy and all pushed forward at once, jumping in unison and screaming along the lyrics to “BOOGIE,” the first song from the band’s latest release, Saturation III. This energy only amplified as the night continued on, and with each song from Brockhampton’s three 2017 Saturation releases, the fans followed right in step, shouting back every word of every song with an unparalleled enthusiasm that literally shook the building. Kevin Abstract, the founder and leader of the group, played off of that intensity as he joined the crowd together with the band in a “Fuck Pitchfork” chant, harnessing the extreme devotion of their fans and channeling it into a separate dynamic of their live performance.
From beginning to end, the crowd’s energy was unrelenting, as was the band’s. That kind of inexhaustible excitement is hard to come by in today’s music world, and it proves that there’s something special about Brockhampton. The question is: how long can they be expected to stick around? For a group that self-defines as a boy band, facetious as it may be, there’s truth to the title, and when a collective is formed with so much talent and diversity, there’s always the nearly assured possibility of solo careers. Kevin Abstract was already prominent before forming Brockhampton, and now that the other members are starting to receive their due recognition, the question looms even closer. How much longer are people going to have the chance to see a group like this perform all together at the same time? According to the testimonies in Brockhampton’s self-made documentary, as well as VICELAND’s “American Boyband,” the members are united in every regard, presenting a beautiful togetherness devoid of self-interest for the sake of creation. With that frame of reference in mind, it makes the future of the group a hopeful one, and while it’s difficult to imagine something so seemingly pure disbanded in the wake of solo careers, it’s not an impossibility.
Regardless of uncertainties, fans of the group have a great deal to look forward to, as Abstract has made mention of Brockhampton becoming more than a band, with goals aimed at being a record label, ad agency, even a media company. Ambition is something that Brockhampton has in spades, and while the structure of the collective may change, the creative energy that motivates such a powerful band and devoted following is only growing stronger. Nobody may know how much longer the “internet’s first boy band” will be playing shows like the one on Monday night in Raleigh, but everyone can rest assured that Brockhampton is only just getting started.