“Me llamo Roberto — y me gusta bailar.”
With these seven words — meaning “My name is Robert, and I like to dance” — that open their music video for “Boogie,” Brockhampton, a self-described boy band, herald the coming of their latest album, Saturation III.
With this latest addition to their discography, Brockhampton maintains their fresh brand of youthful and bold hip hop while moving forward in terms of intricacy and musicality. But the quality of their music is only part of their allure.
Rappers and other artists release hit songs and records all the time. What makes Brockhampton special is that the group is redefining what it means to build an artistic brand. Now, following the release of Saturation III, they have become a unique, independent, and creative powerhouse.
Formed in San Marcos, Texas in 2015, the founding members of Brockhampton first met online on a Kanye West fan forum, where they began sharing tracks and collaborating with one another. In 2016, they decided to move out to Los Angeles together.
All 14 main members of Brockhampton live together in one house in south central Los Angeles. They include the regular performers you see in Brockhampton music videos, as well as producers, a photographer, a graphic designer, and a webmaster.
In this small house, Brockhampton has become a self-sufficient machine, churning out three albums in one year, filming enrapturing music videos, and crafting their absurdist aesthetic. They’ve self-funded most of their creative output and founded their own label, Question Everything.
Living together like a boy band has allowed the group to dive headfirst into their artistic pursuits and create a cohesive product, one that has surpassed similar projects like the hip hop collective Odd Future.
The devil is in the details. Brockhampton’s video thumbnails use an all-caps font in bold, bright colours, against a black and white background photo. Every music video begins with Robert Ontinient, the group’s web developer, delivering the latest edition of the ‘me llamo Roberto’ statements, an odd Hispanic prologue to the subsequent events of the video.
What usually ensues is a whirlwind of incredible storytelling, lyricism, and infectious beats, as well as surrealist sequences and the band’s typical absurdist comedy.
Brockhampton lyrics have a wide scope, addressing issues of homophobia, racism, and domestic abuse, coupled with recurring themes of inadequacy, anarchist nihilism, and brotherhood.
On Saturation II’s “JUNKY,” Kevin Abstract, the band’s leader and arguably most recognizable member, raps about coming out to his mom and the dangers he faces living as an openly gay Black man.
In the “JUNKY” video, sitting in the backseat of a car with his face painted gold, Abstract is flanked by knife-wielding, baby mask-wearing men in a film sequence that evokes the stylistic influences of Salvador Dali and Quentin Tarantino. In the same video, Merlyn Wood takes a bath in Froot Loops.
On “RENTAL,” Dom McLennon raps about his fear of “being everybody else.” On “GUMMY,” the group samples Veronica Petrucci’s “Star Against the Night,” a soft orchestral interlude, and then they abrasively interrupt it with an image of Ameer Vann with a llama on a leash.
It’s these sorts of idiosyncrasies that have endeared Brockhampton to their fans and given them such massive success thus far. Even as an independent collective, they’re on the bill for the Governors Ball, a massive festival in New York. They’re slated to play at Coachella, and they’re selling out shows across North America.
Brockhampton has managed to churn out content that is tuned to mainstream issues, albeit in an increasingly countercultural way. They operate as their own creative and stylistic directors. They don’t use ghost writers. They don’t have the backing of massive publicity firms and labels, and they have virtually none of the usual sex appeal of a manufactured boy band.
Despite all of this, they have over a million monthly listeners on Spotify. They are masters of style, and they use the personalities, stories, and beats that surround them to tap into collective consciousness with ease.
Perhaps their relatability is why the band is enjoying increasing celebrity. Brockhampton are frank and real to the core.
Brockhampton will perform at Rebel on February 8.