BROCKHAMPTON: The Perfect Emblem of Early 21st Century Culture

Arjun Gupta, Staff Writer

“Or do you draw the line for when it’s better days? / We taste the wind for when it’s cold and not to kill our flame”

These inspirational lyrics can be heard playing in “BLEACH” from SATURATION III, the third album of the band BROCKHAMPTON. This was the last of three albums in the band’s Saturation Trilogy, all released in a seven-month period in 2017, which is an outrageous amount of music in such a short time. The trilogy was created as a metaphor for “saturating” the music industry, or overwhelming it with their consecutive albums.

Aside from symbolic references, BROCKHAMPTON is known for numerous other talents, such as incorporating various genres into their music, from grunge rock and hip hop to pop, all while still maintaining their fundamental image of being a boy band. In addition, the band comes from a variety of backgrounds. The members are from all over the world, including Africa, South Asia, the UK, and Latin America and some members identify as queer. Because of their multi-genre music and the progressive topics they advocate for, BROCKHAMPTON stands as a perfect example of early 21st-century music and culture.

First, BROCKHAMPTON represents the musical trends of this modern era. Boy bands like the Backstreet Boys, Jonas Brothers, and *NSYNC all took form during the early 2000s, while other bands such as Big Time Rush and One Direction gained popularity towards the 2010s. It was during this cultural explosion of boy bands that Brockhampton took form. In addition, the group initially started as a grunge rock band, which was a musical trend throughout the early 2000s. The band later emboldened their unique musical diversity by fusing their grunge music with funk, bringing to life anthems like Yves Tumor’s “Gospel for a New Century” and “Noid.” Finally, the band expanded to include aspects of hip hop. In fact, some of the members met on a Kanye West fan forum called “KanyeToThe,” where they started collaborating on music over the internet before eventually all moving to a house together in Texas. Now, the band is considered a hip hop band, with their new albums GINGER and ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE. Hip hop is a common theme in current music, with numerous artists like Drake, Future, and Travis Scott dominating the music industry. BROCKHAMPTON manages to be discussed among these artists while still maintaining their roots in their other genres. 

“When you mention Bieber, Lorde, One Direction, I want to be on that list. But at the same time, when you say Lil Uzi Vert, I want my name to pop up, too. I’m kinda in between both. I wanna bring them together and exist,” lead singer Kevin Abstract told Shortlist.

Moreover, the band handles progressive topics that emphasize important cultural themes. The band itself serves as a reference for modern cultural diversity since its members come from across the world. Founder and rapper Kevin Abstract was raised in a suburban community in Corpus Christi, Texas, producer Jabari Manwa grew up on the Caribbean Island of Grenada and artist and producer Ciaran Ruaridh McDonald was raised across the Atlantic in Northern Ireland. The group also does not shy away from addressing challenging subjects like racism and homophobia. In countless songs, the band discusses the idea of dismissing stereotypes about people of color or queer individuals. For example, a piece entitled “QUEER” in the SATURATION II album reveals how Abstract overcame stereotypes about his sexuality. He made the album to ease the mental grief of his association with the preconceived notions of queerness and to spread awareness about this struggle to listeners. Modern society has shed more light on diversity in race and sexuality, which is highly relevant to BROCKHAMPTON as this mission is a cornerstone of their music.

“In order to make a change, I have to exist in a traditionally homophobic space such as hip-hop if I were to just be this queer rapper who only spoke to queer kids (. . .) I don’t think I could as effectively make a change for another young, black, queer kid growing up in Texas,” Abstract said in his interview with Shortlist.

While some music enthusiasts might consider other mainstream artists like Drake or Tyler, The Creator, as representative of modern culture, critics should view BROCKHAMPTON as more demonstrative of contemporary values due to their diverse background and the critical themes in their music. Not only is their music intricate, unique, and captivating to audiences worldwide, but their uplifting lyrics also show individuals facing discrimination that there are artists out there who understand their struggles and champion their right to be heard in the music industry.