Brockhampton proves that in 2018, you don’t need a record deal to become a household name. Formed in 2015 in San Marcos, Texas, the rap collective is essentially a crew of fifteen friends who work together to write and record music, shoot videos, and promote their brand. The first members actually met in the comments of a Kanye West fan forum. Now, Brockhampton lives together in Los Angeles and churns out albums faster than you can squeak an ad-lib.
Over the course of 2017, Brockhampton produced three LPs to comprise the SATURATION trilogy, each release more dialed than the last. Their sound is fresh but familiar, like a sonic lovechild of Missy Elliot and Dr. Dre. The group’s six rapping members cover a great deal of lyrical ground, touching on themes like faith, drug use and homosexuality. Their latest tour wrapped up last night with a show in Phoenix, AZ.
When I first saw the title of Brockhampton’s latest tour – Love Your Parents: A Live Experience by BROCKHAMPTON – I assumed it was some kind of inside joke. Almost everything the group had put out to date had been tinged with mockery, like the fishy announcement that Saturation III was “Brockhampton’s final studio album.” Loving one’s parents is by no means an offensive practice to promote, but the lyrics of songs like “JUNKY” suggest a bit of tongue-in-cheek there. Calling it “A Live Experience” seemed like a similar stunt to the announcement that the group’s “last studio album” announcement: an act of facetious grandeur.
Brockhampton’s visit to Denver’s Ogden Theater on February 22nd was no gimmick. The show was sold out weeks in advance, with scalpers peddling their wares in the triple digits. The “live experience” had no opener, and so by showtime the venue as packed with anxious fans. The atmosphere before the show was not unlike that of other boybands – anxious fans rushing to get past the security metal detectors, people standing on their tiptoes to see any Brockhampton members lurking in the wings. Every time a sound guy crossed the stage, the crowd erupted into cheers. Some enthusiastic fans in the front tried to summon the boyband three separate times with a “BROCK-HAMP-TON!” chant.
Suddenly, the house went dark. A pedestrian crossing light shone brightly on one end of the stage, and a stoplight illuminated the other. There was a moment of tense silence and anticipation; the calm before the storm. No music just yet. Then, the main lights came up to reveal the makings of a living room – sofa, some chairs, and an ambiguously vintage television set – inhabited by America’s Favorite Boyband, all in matching orange jumpsuits.
Unsurprisingly, Brockhampton opened with “BOOGIE”, a track that marked a sharp upturn in their popularity. Each verse brought a new member downstage, until all but one were in full formation. By the end of the song, each member was downstage and fully vertical – except for Bearface, who spent the entirety of the show lounging in various positions on the furniture.
Kevin Abstract, the group’s leader, did not give the audience much time to breathe after their raucous introduction. For the next hour and a half, Brockhampton blasted through what seemed like all of the Saturation trilogy. The kept small talk between songs to a minimum, but that’s not to say Brockhampton shirked the crowd. Kevin was the primary voice of the group between songs, and he thanked and taunted the crowd. There was even a point in which Kevin engaged the audience in a call-and-response cheer of “I’m gay!”
At one notable moment, they played Star. After Kevin’s verse, he stopped and had the entire crowd rap the lyrics back to him. A bold decision, yet somehow everyone knew all the words. The show maintained its energy on the audience’s knowledge alone. This wasn’t just a hit-song phenomenon, either. Audience members were consistently rapping along to every word. Hilariously, everyone screamed the loudest during the parts with lyrics referencing Kevin’s gayness. Hearing the audience of a sold-out venue shout about giving men oral sex was a special experience indeed.
About an hour into the show, Kevin shut down the party to host a brief Q&A. This lead to a divine moment in which a girl in the crowd held the mic and earnestly asked Matt Champion if he would like to hit her JUUL–he politely declined. Another audience member asked about a certain synth line, which briefly brought DJ Romil into the spotlight. An intergral part of Brockhampton’s music, Romil was the silent hero of the night. He nailed the live autotuning, and made sure there wasn’t a moment of dead air to spoil the energy.
The show came to a close with a soulful solo performance of Waste by Bearface, who had remained draped across the living room set up until that point. Naturally, the performance wasn’t really the end of the show, and it was obvious that the boyband was simply baiting the audience for an encore. Upon Bearface’s exit, the stage went dark. For about ten hopeful minutes the crowd chanted and churned. Kevin took a mic from backstage and teased the crowd with lines from various songs, taunting his fans with a vast portfolio of potential reprises. Finally, the lights came up and Brockhampton came out to perform the pleasant pop track “HOTTIE”.
Brockhampton’s show at The Ogden proves that there is strength in numbers. With six spitters to cover every dropped syllable, the group enjoyed a large margin for error. The group dynamic is forgiving. It doesn’t matter that no single member could carry a performance like that on their own – that’s just part of the deal. They wear the same orange jumpsuits and often paint their faces blue, a cheeky nod to the fact that Brockhampton is totally a team effort.
Brockhampton’s achievements over the last six months could be enough to satisfy a young rap group’s ambitions, but America’s Favorite Boyband is nowhere near slowing down. Now that the “Love Your Parents” tour has come to a close, Brockhampton will return home to Los Angeles for a few months, before playing major festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Reading & Leeds. I tremble for any act who has to follow them.
Watch the video for “SWEET” below: