BROCKHAMPTON is a hip-hop super-collective with 17 members, composed of singers, rappers, producers, designers, and videographers. They are an aggregate of close friends who have come to be a polarizing group of young misfits. Sound familiar? If that description brought 2010-2012 Odd Future to mind, you’re not far off the mark. This self-proclaimed boyband unconventionally came to be through a Kanye West fan forum in 2015. Originally from Texas, this coterie ambitiously uprooted to Los Angeles, CA, with many members leaving behind their colleges and families in the process.
However, their work is beginning to pay off; the boys unexpectedly — but deservedly — blew up this summer with the release of their sophomore album, SATURATION (2017), in June. For listeners everywhere, this project — especially considering it was made in about three weeks — demonstrated tremendous amounts of raw talent, creativity, and chemistry. The level of charisma on their first major release is baffling for such a young, inexperienced group, as the diverse cast of vocalists alternate spitting and singing their own perspectives with their own cadences and deliveries. A rabid, cult-like fanbase of diverse youths quickly emerged, enticed by the group’s brilliantly-directed and well-shot music videos, as well as their direct lyrics regarding taboo topics in mainstream rap, like homosexuality. In August, just a few months after the release of SATURATION, fans were graced with the sequel SATURATION II (2017), and were also told by the band’s figurehead, Kevin Abstract, that SATURATION III would be released before the year’s end to complete the trilogy.
Following the release of SATURATION II, BROCKHAMPTON embarked on “Jennifer’s Tour,” their first ever tour together. With the amount of hype surrounding the group in the past few months, I knew I had to be quick in buying my tickets; it was no surprise that every date sold out. During the final stretch of dates, the group made their way through San Francisco, where they played at Social Hall SF twice within the span of a week. Young fans of all different backgrounds and identities lined up around the block for both shows, some arriving hours before doors opened. The turnout ensured that the small, intimate venue, which was just a big room with a wooden dancefloor and a stage, was crowded and suffocating, especially toward the stage.
However, despite this stipulation, the crowd brought tremendous energy to warmly welcome BROCKHAMPTON’s first ever performances in the city. The band themselves matched this vivacity by having multiple members on stage exuberantly performing high-tempo bangers from both of their critically-acclaimed summer releases that launched them into stardom.
“Kevin, why do you always rap about being gay?” repeated Kevin loudly over and over, before transitioning into the track “JUNKY,” in which the first verse finds Kevin addressing this question. They performed nearly all of their other high-intensity hits like “GOLD,” “SWAMP,” “GUMMY,” “SWEET,” “CHICK,” “BOYS,” and “HEAT.” During these tracks, the crowd was chaotic; I found it difficult to breathe, move, and stay hydrated when I found myself near the front, and everyone was pushing and falling and moshing. Every lyric, especially during the catchier hooks and verses, was shouted in unison by a sea of passionate, young voices. Band members were constantly stage-diving and crowd-surfing; I got a handful of BROCKHAMPTON member Matt Champion’s head as he surfed past me. It was the most mutually lively — and sweatiest — pair of shows that I’ve ever attended. Not to mention the self-conscious humor of the performances: the band went from aggressively muttering the Madagascar theme song, “I Like to Move It,” to playing “JELLO,” which has a similar lead melody. In light of an ambivalent review of SATURATION, Kevin also prompted fans to chant “F*ck Pitchfork!” Kevin then proceeded to demand that everyone, including security, shake their ass.
The group showcased its musical diversity by slowing it down and switching the mood with tracks like “MILK,” which addresses a lack of belonging, and “FACE,” a smooth-as-chocolate love song with a beautiful hook. They even went as far as to play “SUMMER” and “WASTE,” two songs about gay love, during which Bearface, the group’s most mysterious anomaly, came out alone to serenade the crowd with his dreamy, Frank Ocean-esque vocals and guitar work. I genuinely can’t think of another rap group that would allow a single member to come out and sing guitar ballads about gay love during the climax of their live show. This was truly stunning and embodies why the group stands out so much.
Both sets were finished off with a fervorous performance of their biggest and most hype hit, “STAR”. With the crowd thinking the encore would end with the single performance of the song, the group went on to continue performing it; they did it at least six–yes, six–times at the first show. Even around the sixth go, though, the energy of the room was unwavering, as fans continued to indefatigably mosh and scream the lyrics, showing just as much persistence and excitement as the members of BROCKHAMPTON themselves. What a wonderful experience this encore turned out to be. Hearing a bunch of kids recite lyrics like “Try to tell it to her nicely, but she never wanna listen / I beat the pussy to submission, Tom Cruise on a mission” and “I don’t fuck with no white boys, ‘less the n—- Shawn Mendes” upwards of six times in a row is a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.
After the two-hour-long show, the group summed up just how down-to-earth and normal they are through their meet-and-greet, in which they met and took pictures with nearly every fan in attendance. Even off the stage, they remained some of the coolest and most genuine dudes; nearly every member, even the non-vocalists, took part in the meet-and-greet and seemed to be completely happy catering to their fans. Full disclosure: I’m somewhat of a die-hard stan of the band, and I’ve met Kevin about five times now, so he and a few of the other members recognized me and showed me love for continuously coming out to their events. Including their humility, they are a breath of fresh air in every way for today’s rap industry. Though not yet a household name, BROCKHAMPTON will undoubtedly continue to gain traction with future projects and let you know that they are, in the words of Kevin Abstract, “the best boyband in the motherfuckin’ world.”
Written by Anthony Vega
Photos by Social Hall SF