BROCKHAMPTON Proves Boy Band Supremacy at Highline Ballroom Show in New York City
“Y'all know BROCKHAMPTON is like the best boy band in the motherfucking world, right?”
If you asked any attendee who experienced BROCKHAMPTON pull off choreographed sequences on stage, amidst a sea of mosh pits and crowd surfers, on Monday night (Sept. 11) at NYC’s Highline Ballroom, they would surely agree that this group of friends is redefining the boy band in 2017.
BROCKHAMPTON consists of rapper Kevin Abstract, the group's 20-year-old founder from Corpus Christi, Texas, and several other vocalists from his home state: Ameer Vann, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Russell Boring (JOBA), as well as out-of-towners like Bearface and Dom McLennon. Their production team includes Jabari Manwa, Kiko Merley, and Romil Hemnani. As far as graphic design, it’s helmed by Ashlan Grey and Henock “HK” Sileshi. Their collective chemistry is akin to Odd Future, A$AP Mob, or Wu-Tang Clan, but their carefree approach to music finds them exploring beyond hip-hop and into genres such as alt-rock and even pop.
Abstract has been playing with the idea of forming a creative collective since he launched AliveSinceForever in 2011, which at one point boasted around 30 members that were recruited through Kanye West’s fansite, KanyeToThe. Abstract would later re-brand ASF to BROCKHAMPTON, the self-proclaimed “All-American Boy Band”, in 2015, dwindling down the number to the 15-strong roster we see today.
While building a buzz off his solo projects -- MTV1987 and American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story -- Abstract and the guys dropped their debut mixtape, All-American Trash, in 2016. The LA-based collective reached a fever pitch when they dropped two volumes of their Saturation series (August’s Saturation II debuted at No. 57 on the Billboard 200 independently), and the third and final installment is slated to release soon.
During the sold-out, early show of BROCKHAMPTON’s Jennifer Tour – the New York stop presented by Move Forward Music – the crew mostly stuck to material off Saturation and Saturation II. The crowd, mostly 20-somethings and teenagers, fed off the DJ’s energy, who would throw insults as a way to get them more hyped. “Toronto is louder!” and “Come on, you dumbasses!” are fighting statements to a New York crowd, so they responded with louder screams rapping along to A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, and Playboi Carti. A new BROCKHAMPTON song premiered as well, containing a melodic hook with earworm potential (“Baby boy are you alright? Call me after midnight”).
New Brockhampton to Hard in Da Paint pic.twitter.com/oPArQOciy3— Eric Diep (@E_Diep) September 12, 2017
You’ll come to find that “Yee-haw!” and “Not my boyfriend!” chants are the norm at a BROCKHAMPTON show. They emerged from stage left one-by-one, opening with “HEAT” to a boisterous crowd. In the spirit of having no breathers, they kept going with mosh pit-ready cuts “GUMMY,” “QUEER,” and “FACE.” A couch, part of BROCKHAMPTON’s logo, was placed center stage, utilized by every member who wasn't up to rap. During their R&B ballad moments, it felt like at a house concert -- other times, Highline Ballroom almost couldn't contain their fans, as they stood on booths, visibly rocking out to the group’s swaggering, aggressive bars.
For those who haven’t been following Abstract’s music, he has been open about his sexuality, and he has said in previous interviews that he wants to change the perception of queer artists in hip-hop by being an idol for others. In a now-deleted tweet, he wrote, “The goal is to fucking normalize this shit, so if a gay black kid wanna talk about hooking up with dudes next to his homie, it’s not a big deal.”
During this show, BROCKHAMPTON teased that New York wants to go to another world, or a “gay world,” adding “some people call it Tokyo,” a nod to their infectious song of the same name. “JUNKY,” which has lyrics about Abstract coming out the closet and being a gay rapper, were welcomed with cheers.
In the end, BROCKHAMPTON slowed things down with “MILK,” followed by an intimate guitar performance by Bearface. They picked it back up with an encore, performing their high-octane single “STAR” three times. McLennon, Vann, and Abstract have exceptionally airtight verses on this song, name-dropping everyone from Kobe Bryant and Heath Ledger to Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. “STAR” was the apex of the night, a surefire way to leave your fans with an after-show high.
BROCKHAMPTON’s ability to traverse through different moods is impressive. It supports the trend that rap’s emerging artists love to create in genres without borders, taking listeners to new places and vibes outside of traditional boundaries. Though BROCKHAMPTON is clearly a young act with more maturing to do, it’s their curiosity in exploring where they want to take their sound next that makes them such an exciting crew to watch.