The modest one-family home in Beverly Hills, Calif., is overflowing with what can only be called stuff. Camera cases, sneaker boxes, manuals covered in the discarded guts of Backwoods cigars. Bottles of barbecue sauce, mac-and-cheese packets, Energy Sparkling White Grape V8. Confetti cannons, Halloween skulls, IV bags on rolling stands (apparently props of some sort). There’s a whiteboard that reads, in ghostly half-erased letters, “make the best thing you can every day.” Mellotrons, drum pads and one very ’80s Mac desktop, plopped in the middle of the room, constitute a makeshift recording studio. And finally, scattered among all this stuff, there are the 14 members of the über-egalitarian, cult-favorite hip-hop collective Brockhampton.
On this Monday afternoon in late May, Kevin Abstract, 22, the de facto frontman, quietly sits in the de facto power position: in the corner of an L-shaped couch, gripping an Xbox controller. He’s surrounded by Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon and Ameer Vann, the group’s rappers; and Joba and Bearface, its vocalists. These are the core members who perform at Brockhampton’s oddball but electric live shows, covered in Blue Man Group makeup or wearing bulletproof vests bearing labels like “Fiend” and “Nothing.” Then there’s the other personnel: producers Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merley; photographers/creative directors Ashlan Grey and Henock “HK” Sileshi; manager Jon Nunes; and webmaster/music video personality Robert Ontenient.
Whether they’re onstage or behind the scenes, they’re all full members of Brockhampton, credited as writers or producers on most of the band’s tracks. Polite, inseparable men in their early to mid-20s, they’re a racially diverse crew that vibrates on the same strange frequency. Conversations rattle around the room: Is John Mayer “old” or is he “classic”? What is James and the Giant Peach about? (“Why can’t it just be about a cool peach?”) “Pull up Kanye’s tweet! About the hammer! I think Steve Jobs said something similar!” The exchanges are immediate, considerate, warm, insightful. I have never seen a bigger group of friends all in one room, interacting for this long, without anyone being mean to anyone else.