Brockhampton, a Los Angeles collective of artists and designers, performed two shows for their Love Your Parents Tour at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia on Jan 30 and 31. The crowd was made up of mostly teens and twenty-somethings, sporting colorful Brockhampton sweatshirts and T-shirts. Toward the front, fans waved face cutouts of Brockhampton’s performing artists: Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Matt Champion, and Joba. As the lights dimmed, a man wearing a blue hospital mask and headlamp walked through heavy smoke to the middle of the stage. Standing in the middle of the stage, the man knelt and, standing up, pulled on an orange jumpsuit, Brockhampton’s choice costume. As the crowd exploded into whoops and cheers, he pulled off his mask and headlamp, revealing himself to be Brockhampton’s cover boy, Ameer Vann, whose face is featured on each album cover of Brockhampton’s 2017 “Saturation Trilogy”. At the same time, the rest of the group rushed on stage to open the show with “Boogie,” the explosive first track off their latest record.
The group, led by Kevin Abstract, met through an online Kanye West forum and then moved into a house, which served as their creative space, in a neighborhood in South Central L.A. Not one member of Brockhampton is older than twenty-four, the group have not signed with a label, everything is produced in-house, and they haven’t done much press or social media marketing. Despite this, within a period of one year, Brockhampton has released three critically-acclaimed albums and garnered an impressive fan base of self-identified weird, young people who want to be heard. Brockhampton resist the established music industry through genuine artistry. The boy band “saturated” the scene with their music, letting their art speak for itself. Their success sets the stage for a different music industry which will be less capitalistic and more artistic, focused on creative integrity, innovation, and authenticity.
The group, diverse in sexual-orientation and race, imagine themselves as a modern boyband, the “best boyband since One Direction.” Consequently, their audience has accepting perspectives and willful opinions.
“It’s really cool to be surrounded by people who enthusiastically sing along as Kevin raps, ‘Why you always rap about bein’ gay? / ́Cause not enough n***** rap and be gay.’ Those people are trying to change things,” said Matt Becker ’21, a friend who attended the concert.
In a question and an answer, Kevin Abstract addresses the lack of openly gay and bisexual rappers. He wants to use Brockhampton as a voice for the voiceless, to speak for those who can’t, and the audience feels his anger and frustration below the bouncing music.
Brockhampton fill their music, fashion, and performance with societal commentary. The group of six performers stand in a straight line across the front of the stage, taking turns rapping and singing.
“Brockhampton did a really good job performing together, which you don’t really see a lot in solo rap. They feed off each other’s energy. When you’re in a group setting, you feel that when you are rapping, and that fuels you. Even if only one person is rapping, they are all still performing together,” said Charlie Cole ̕21, another friend who attended the concert.
The group’s chemistry is apparent: members sing-along with each other’s verses, bouncing around the stage as a cohesive, chaotic unit. Furthermore, the group express their opinions through words and images. They appear as a group of prisoners, dressed in orange jumpsuits, through which the group comment on racial and class biases. Brockhampton, a group of misfits, may feel as though they are imprisoned in a world where they are not accepted, trapped by forces beyond their control, prisoners to a society which oppresses the very diversity and love that Brockhampton stands for.
Throughout the performance, Kevin often interrupted the set to comment on his belief of human love. The group has attempted to rebrand the middle finger as an act of love instead of hate. The phrase “f*** you” and the accompanying gesticulation are hateful, but also sexual. Brockhampton wants the phallic middle finger to symbolize the latter. Sexual love is human; it transcends gender, race, and class.
“When we flip you off, we really mean we love you,” said Kevin Abstract. In replacing love with hate, Brockhampton disrupt the system of anger and hatred in which they themselves are prisoners.