Brockhampton is a boy band—or rather, a collection of rappers, singers, producers, photographers, and one web designer who would like you to call them a boy band. The leader is a 21-year-old guy named Kevin Abstract. He’s gay, very outspokenly so. There are 14 other members. Most of them met each other in high school in Texas. The others connected via the kanyetothe message board, sending beats and song ideas to one another over email. Eventually, they all moved to L.A. and rented a house together in South L.A. to pursue their musical dreams. The rest is boy band history.
If you haven’t heard of Brockhampton, it’s not for lack of trying on their part. They were the subject of a recent Viceland show. They’ve released not one, but two full-length albums—Saturation and Saturation II—this summer (the second of which recently debuted at number 57 on the Billboard 200). Both are incredible, and a third installment has been promised before the end of the year. Regardless of whether you’ve heard of them, you need to see them. In the span of three and a half months, Brockhampton have etched an impressively cinematic mark on the internet’s progressively overcrowded and overproduced visual slate. I’m talking about the amazing music videos of theirs that you should have already watched, that someone—had they really cared about you—would’ve already shown you. In a few DIY strokes, these vignettes manage to be both unlike anything else and exactly what everybody's been trying to do.
Since May 6 they have released 10 music videos. All are directed, shot, and edited by members of the group; and all appear to be filmed either inside their house, or in the area immediately surrounding it. They’re windows into the minds of kids that have seen too many Tyler, the Creator videos and just enough Wes Anderson films—saturated bizarro worlds where a frantic sprint “in search of Jaden Smith” can directly precede an impassioned soliloquy about the strained relationship you have with your mother. Like the music they’re paired with, the videos are achingly sincere, shockingly frivolous, and undeniably beautiful.
Exhibit A: “Gummy”—A loose parody of a Hollywood heist movie in which we’re introduced to a five-man posse that have just successfully robbed a bank. There’s a fleet of toy electric cars, an offshore account in Sweden, and a decoy alpaca named “Mr. Snuffleupagus.” You probably won’t even notice most of that because you’ll be so enraptured by the performances. One by one, the members of the heist team emerge through the sunroof of the getaway vehicle for their curtain call. First, is Kevin, “The Mastermind.” He’s thrashing and angry, but in the celebratory, tackle your teammate after they score a goal kind of way. Next, Merlyn Wood—“The Hacker”—pops up and does his best China-Klay impersonation. Ameer Vann—the “Getaway Driver”—looks like the weird neighbor, Wilson, from Home Improvement, his head barely surfacing into the frame as he simultaneously steers the vehicle. Spliced into all of this are shots of Abstract’s head floating above a couch in front of a television set and a shirtless Ameer stroking a real, live alpaca. It’s Reservoir Dogs on acid.
Exhibit B: “Star”—Think Blue Man Group if they had just escaped from prison on a golf cart and were now taking turns rapping about their favorite movie characters. “Anthony Hopkins, I’m eatin’ ’em raw / They don’t know who we are / Molly Shannon, I’m a superstar,” Dom McLennon spits ferociously. Fever dream concepts aside, the most striking things about Brockhampton videos is how they’re shot. It’s as if editor and colorist Henock Sileshi wanted everyone and everything in them to look like they were made of fresh Play-Doh. The aspect ratio has been reduced to a tight square, floating in the middle of your screen. Bodies and faces crowd the frame, and, when it feels like it, the camera will swing on a horizontal axis to a 45-degree angle. If you’re not knocked flat on your back after all that, hearing a man in blue face sing, “I don’t fuck with no white boys / Unless that nigga Shawn Mendes” might actually kick you in the chest.
Exhibit C: “Follow”—It’s the groups simplest video conceptually. There are no bank heists, no alpacas, no blue body paint—just a mirror. In that mirror, you see Abstract wiggle around like the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man he was born to be. Vann quite literally comes out of the closet, Matt Champion reclines on a couch in the background, and Wood—perennially the most frenetic of the bunch—slides into the frame swinging harder than McGregor did in the first four rounds. It’s functionally the bedroom dance scene from every teen movie ever, and it ends with the four of them doing one of those swaying basketball huddles. The whole thing is weird and goofy, and yet, I still find myself glued. In all their videos, they exude a thrilling “We couldn’t even begin to know how to give a fuck” sense of creative freedom. It’s completely disarming, and makes for good watching, even if it’s just four guys dancing in a room.
I’m not the only one who’s really into these videos. “Gold” passed the million-view mark earlier this summer. “Gummy” and “Star” have since followed suit. Online, Brockhampton has an ardent fan base, one that resembles those of, well, actual boy bands. It’s how they self-identify. They do this mainly to subvert what people think of “being a boy band” to mean — a corporately concocted, carefully curated, brand-aligned group of pretty white boys that perform on Good Morning America.
In 2017, pushing back against that idea feels more and more like common sense. If a team of music executives, talent scouts, and A&Rs were to take a pulse of the internet right now and construct a group of early 20-somethings that they thought best “captured the zeitgeist,” that group would probably look a little more queer, multiracial, and gender-noncomforming than it did 10 years ago. It would probably look a whole lot like Brockhampton. That’s part of what’s so exciting about them and exactly what their music videos capture so well. Their natural, unrefined essence is exactly what many people are spending lots of money clumsily trying to approximate.