British Kids Tell Us Why They’re So Obsessed with BROCKHAMPTON
“They’re literally like 'I am gay, I am black – whatever.' We’re bored of boy bands with clean cut white boys.”
Lead image by Jake Lewis
Something about boy bands sends people wild. Kids who are adorable IRL tell people on YouTube to kill themselves when they comment that Luke Hemmings from 5SOS isn’t a great singer. Young girls upload selfies with a band’s tousle-haired frontman every time they do a meet and greet for years, until deep wrinkles settle into both their faces. Hundreds bid on Harry Styles’ vomit from the side of the road, and then cry when they lose.
Which is why, when I peep the enormous queue outside London’s KOKO for one of two Brockhampton shows over in the UK this week, I am unsurprised to find palpable hysteria. Fans who have clearly been there for well over four hours are sprawled on the floor, sipping cans of Strongbow Dark Fruit or else pissing wherever is available. Fresh-faced teenagers are angrily chanting “fuck Pitchfork!” due to a lukewarm review of the group's June 2017 album Saturation.
But, as we know, Brockhampton aren’t a regular boy band. There are no sickly dance routines or standing up off stools in unison when the soaring chorus drops. Instead, the 14-strong collective – led by Kevin Abstract, and comprised of rappers, singers, producers and visual artists – dress as blue gnomes in orange prison overalls, or wear bulletproof vests and fire up sweaty mosh pits. Their music blurs genres, too – from trap to hip hop to Sean Mendes-style guitar pop – all tied together with lyrics tackling race, poverty, queerness, mental health and toxic masculinity.
So what exactly is it about them that makes young people over here completely lose their shit? They're based in California, so the fact they're coming to the UK (and have been touring Europe this summer) is a rare and special treat, so it's time to find out where the obsession grew from in the first place. I spoke to their legions of fans – who are a sea of dungarees and orange camo – about why they love Brockhampton so much, and what makes them a better boy band than One Direction ever were.
“I just thought it was one absolute genius who could put on different accents”
Noisey: What’s your favourite Brockhampton song?
Luke: It would have to be “Milk” because I relate to it a lot. I’m a third-culture kid, and an international student; it’s hard to make friends when you’re constantly moving to a new society, a new community, a new group of people. There’s one lyric in particular that speaks to me: “Walking through the pitfalls of a college student / Crazy how you get them letters and that make you feel accepted / Til you walking 'round the campus and you the only African.”
Bianca: I like the line in “Stupid” that goes: “Boys wanna play with my cell phone / But I don't want nobody to see what's in it” – so true.
Where did you find out about them?
Curran: On Reddit. I just thought it was this one amazing guy, an absolute genius who could put on all these different accents and make all these different types of music. Until it turned out there is 14 of them and it made a lot of sense.
Jaz: Kevin’s voice sometimes sounds like a girl's and I was like “wait – who is the girl of the group?”
“We’re bored of boy bands with clean-cut white boys.”
Noisey: Why do you like Brockhampton so much?
Doll: They’re literally like ‘I am gay, I am black – whatever.’ We’re bored of boy bands with clean-cut white boys.
Yora: There’s every inspiration on a Brockhampton song: Sometimes Matt sounds like Twista, the production always sounds like Kanye West 808 and Heartbreak, then there’s guitar pop.
Chris: Brockhampton’s 1999 Wildfire sounds like Outkast’s song “The Love Below” and the second half sounds like Justin Timberlake Justified.
What would you say to them if you met them?
Chris: Yora would probably collapse.
Yora: With my anemia and my nausea it would be the end of me.
Doll: If I met Matt, I would try and kidnap him – like, I’m a nice girl, just get to know me. Me and Dom could talk about our depression and relate.
“This is a community”
Noisey: Why do you love Brockhampton so much?
Diana: Are you trying to cut in the queue?
No I’m not pushing in, promise.
Diana: We’re from Bournemouth, the culture there is to cut in. It could get aggressive if you try it here though, people love Brockhampton so much. As long as it’s behind me I don’t care, that’s the etiquette. People could be beating each other up back there – it wouldn’t matter to me.
Cameron: Depends whether they’re witty about it or whether they just jump in. But as lovers of Brockhampton, we should be respectful enough of each other to have a discourse and not fall out over a queue – this is a community. I only just met this guy next to me Dane; we chatted on the Brockhampton subreddit.
Diana: And that’s why they threw Ameer out because what he did doesn’t agree with Brockhampton’s values that they sing about on their songs. You heard “Junky.”
Let me try this instead: what would you do if you met someone from Brockhampton?
Cameron: We did actually see Dom down there. We didn’t scream or anything because when I was in a band I had a slight modicum of that attention and I know how fucking stressful it is. I said hi to him and then I walked off. He’s only got a tiny bit of free time to have a cig on his own. That shit is important; it makes you feel human again.
“They make it seem like it’s possible to do anything”
Noisey: Why do you like Brockhampton so much?
Ife: They do things differently and they make it seem like it’s possible to do anything, all you need is the internet.
I’m really jealous, I wish I was coming in.
Wait your not seeing it? Are you getting paid? Are you OK?
Do you really think I would talk to you for free?
If you’re being paid, I better say something good: Each member of the band brings their own perspective and the ability to change – look at me with my words.
So eloquent. What are your favourite lyrics?
Afote: “Heath Ledger with some dreads, I just gave my n**** head”.
Did you give up anything important to be here?
Ife: I gave up work and I’m an intern so I’m supposed to be impressive – that’s commitment. Can I give you my SoundCloud?
Chiso: Shut up you don’t have a SoundCloud.
Why are Brockhampton’s fans so young?
Afote: Cause the band are so young – Kevin Abstract is 22. It’s so annoying when people are that talented, that’s why I don’t watch football, Mbappé – I hate him.
“I heard Gold when I was having a spliff in the woods and I was taken aback”
Noisey: Why did you get into Brockhampton?
Connor: I heard Gold last year when I was having a spliff in the woods and I was taken aback completely, unfortunately, by Ameer.
Cameron: Peak times.
What do you like about Brockhampton?
Connor: There’s a nice mix of stuff to get pumped to while I’m in the shower and chill when I’m smoking a spliff. After work, when I have about 20 minutes to myself, I pour a glass of wine, queue a playlist with Brockhampton and OKRE by Tyler the Creator, and relax.
Are you guys off to the front when you get in?
Connor: I’ve still got a mate coming but I dunno if he’s gonna make it. He’s supposed to be bringing the weed.
“You’re bound to identify with at least one person in the group”
Noisey: Hey, are you excited to see Brockhampton?
Cameron: I was not looking forward to it when I saw the queue, but now I’ve got a couple of beers inside me I’m excited. You know those people sat down have been here since 3PM? It’s such a teenager thing; when you hit a certain age, no more sitting on the floor.
How did you get into Brockhampton?
I’ve been a fan of Kevin Abstract for a while. I didn’t even know he was in the band until I heard him rap, “Why you always rap about bein' gay? / 'Cause not enough n***** rappin' be gay”. No one else in the game would spit that.
Why do you think Brockhampton have so many loyal fans?
Boy bands are something everyone can relate to, you’re bound to identify with at least one person in the group.
What would you do to live in the Brockhampton house, cause you know they all live together?
That just sounds like a really heavy house to live in, always creative, I wouldn’t be cut out for it. I would just be in the corner with beer and zoots.
“They represent a collective idea”
Noisey: Why do you love Brockhampton so much?
Tomi: They’re all from different cultures and genders, but they make it sound so beautiful as a whole.
Tope: They are the same gender, hun. They’re all men.
Tomi: Fine, they all have different sexual preferences.
Who is your favourite?
Tope: Matt Champion – his raps are the best. But it’s not like with a conventional boy band where it’s like, 'oh here’s Harry, the cheeky one,’ or Zane ‘the bad one.’ They’re a unit, you don’t see them as individuals, they represent a collective idea.
Like socialist pop? (lol) What would you say to them if you met?
Tomi: Can I be in your band? If you’re gonna preach diversity, it’s time you got a girl in.
Did you miss much to be here?
Tomi: Sleep, that’s it.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.