the reinvention of brockhampton

Staff writer Hadiyyah talks 1999 WILDFIRE, Ameer Vann's departure, and the evolution of America's greatest boyband.

America’s greatest boyband is back and I couldn’t be happier. Brockhampton recently announced on March 30th, 2018, that they are now signed to heavyweight record label RCA. However, it wasn’t long after this that former frontman Ameer Vann faced abuse allegations that resulted in his termination with the band. All things considered, it’s been quite the up and down year for the Brockhampton boys.

This summer, they released four new singles from their new upcoming album, the best years of our lives. The first was debuted on Jimmy Fallon, a bittersweet ode to loss and fame called "TONYA." The title made sense once Kevin Abstract rapped his verse, saying, “My life is I, Tonya.” An obvious reference to the 2017 biopic on skater Tonya Harding, whose reputation became tainted due to her husband’s mistakes. YouTube reviews and Twitter threads blew up with the fact that this is a feasible reference to how Vann’s abusive behaviour negatively impacted the image of Brockhampton. Abstract's next line- “I feel like brother’s lie just so my feelings don’t get hurt”- could be another reference to the betrayal he feels about not knowing the true behaviour of one of his closest friends. Though I couldn’t help feeling badly for Ian Simpson (the real name of Abstract), I was wary of the attention it placed on Vann and how it highlighted the boys themselves as victims. I think the shining of verse of "TONYA" came from Merlyn Wood. His lyrics- “Don't think too fast, private jets still crash / And I still fly coach, and I'll still hit a roach / And I still see roaches at the crib where my folks at,” are extremely poignant and possibly reveal- as the rest of the song does- the double-edged sword of fame. He rapped them with intense emotion (and I’ll admit that my eyes were filled with tears when it was over). Dom McLennon, another Brockhampton member, did something similar with his verse- this time touching on an issue he always has shed light upon. The way McLennon raps about mental illness is the way it should be digested: frankly and without shame- albeit with a little tenderness. The boyband's other recent release, "Don’t Get Famous," is a song that aligns with the messages of "TONYA," but neither have been released on streaming platforms.

Their second single, "1999 WILDFIRE," carries the opposite mood- the kind of snappy, sassy, sexy Brockhampton beat we’re used to. With yet another contagious chorus from Kevin Abstract, the song springs itself into a delicious verse from Matt Champion about money and women. It’s a verse reminiscent of one of his solo singles, "Fangs," which begins with the lyrics; “She rolled up in the Beamer, couldn’t have looked cleaner.” The Beamer is referenced again in “WILDFIRE,” as well as the double-bunned hairstyle sported by the object of Matt’s affection. Joba’s verse is up next, and it’s very, very Joba. If you don’t know Brockhampton, Joba is the most out-there member with a self-made crazy-guy persona. With the silly vocals and speedy clean rapping, this verse is all about the idea fame and other’s wanting you for your success. It definitely radiates the Joba energy we all know. McLennon’s verse radiates the positivity and self-worth he always seems to bring to his work, with lyrics like, “All I know is they wanted to move without me / How they used to doubt me, but you can’t renounce me.”

The other official singles- "1998 TRUMAN" and "1997 DIANA"- hold a similar attitude; very sonically diverse, with notable high energy verses from Merlyn Wood. Through all this discussion of music, however, have you forgotten what I said about Ameer earlier? Unfortunately, I haven’t either. I was rather disappointed when I read some the tweets and YouTube comments via fans saying things akin to, “Ameer [Vann] would sound good on this,” "They’re [BROCKHAMPTON] nothing without Ameer,” or the ever so common “I miss Ameer.” I don’t usually bother hitting the dislike buttons on comments, but I felt sort of a civic duty. Even though the group is progressing to a higher quality of music, Ameer supporters are casting a negative shadow on their journey. What Ameer does now is his problem- fans should be wishing healing and positive energy to the victims of his violence. And most are, so it’s critical that these fans hold their ground, focus on the music being made-- not whatever it is other’s think Brockhampton has lost. The whole aim and message of Brockhampton as a whole has been love, positivity, and acceptance. It should stay that way, even though Ameer’s actions have cast a dark shadow on the rest of their career.

Brockhampton’s current members continue to define themselves through their verses in all of their recent singles. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re still growing. Nobody’s more important than anyone else but held to the highest standard is the music itself. They consider everyone who works on their image and music to be a part of their band- like their photographer Ashlan Grey and their artistic director Henock Sileshi. They share the love they have for each other through their music and spread it to their fans. That’s why they get that love right back; fans feel loved, they feel understood. Even though their lyrics continue to be personal to them, they’re reflecting the universal emotions we all share: feelings of unimportance, self-doubt, and even bliss- like sometimes we too can own the world. ✉



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