If you ask any given person to name the most prolific boyband of the twenty-first century, I’m willing to bet his or her answer would be One Direction. He or she would be incorrect. Now, don’t get me wrong; that mistake is common and understandable.
The U.K.-based quintet-turned-quartet did, after all, release five studio albums in four years. That’s impressive. Only one boyband, though, has ever released three studio albums over the course of six months. Only one boasts somewhere between fourteen and thirty-eight members who met on the Internet. That boyband is Brockhampton — and they exploded in the summer of 2017, delivering some of the most exciting hip-hop I have heard this decade.
Riding the momentum of their 2016 mixtape All-American Trash, and a Viceland program titled American Boyfriend, Brockhampton entered 2017 hungry. Over the course of the year, they wrote and recorded so much high-caliber material that they just could not settle for one album. In fact, the creativity flowing between the six spitters, two singers, three producers, and visual arts masterminds was (and continues to be) so intense that the group nicknamed their house in L.A. the Brockhampton factory. For the sake of brevity, I will resist the impulse to write extensively about each member. Here are the nine tracks from the Saturation trilogy you should check out if you want to get into Brockhampton.
This track was my introduction to BH, and it quite literally blew my head straight off my neck. It was my most played song on Spotify in 2017; the first time I played it was in June. The heavy, industrial drums and muddy bassline have such primal energy that I feel like I’m discovering fire every time I listen. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Ameer Vann’s verse is one of the hardest I have ever heard kick off an album.
Talkin’ ‘bout release dates, I’m tryna make it to tomorrow.
If I had to encapsulate the essence of this iconic single in one word, it would be bars. Bars on bars on bars on bars on bars on bars on bars. Rapping over a simple beat accented with eerie keys, Dom, Ameer, and Kevin deliver three airtight verses that are so dense with witty pop culture references that each one doesn’t sink in until the guys are three lines ahead. I like to think of this track as a mission statement of sorts for the group; it’s a perfect snapshot of the talent and personality that make BH so compelling.
Heath Ledger with some dreads/I just gave my nigga head.
One of the most underrated tracks in their discography. The pounding drums hypnotically mesh with a riff that’s played on either keys or a ukulele — I have no idea. The record is made all the more mesmerizing by an odd, ear worm sample of a woman’s voice that immediately locks me in. Kevin is the undisputed genius behind this song, teaming up with Dom to spit one of their best bridges and going solo on an electrifying, off-the-wall outro.
I’m addicted to writing shit that make niggas scared of us.
—Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon
The lead single that got BH fans out-of-their-minds excited for their second LP of the summer. The beat is undeniably groovy and features a piercing synth lead that jars the ears at first but eventually gets under the skin in the best way possible. I have heard this song no fewer than 1,000 times, and Kevin’s opening verse continues to knock me on my ass. The bridge is perfectly tailored to Merlyn Wood’s wild vocal style. Ameer and Dom deliver landmark verses in their catalogues.
I could get shot in the back, and they’d tell the world that I fought em/We ain’t taught em nothing new but somehow they been getting smarter.
Kevin’s verse, dude. Kevin’s VERSE. Those sixty-three seconds are enough to sell this single. Not since Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition have, I heard a hip-hop instrumental this unsettling. Each rapper manages to go hard while delivering some of the group’s most vulnerable and revealing lyrical content to date. A perfect display of what makes Merlyn so unique.
Love is knowing you didn’t do it by your lonesome.
I swear, there is a reason I’m focusing strictly on opening verses. This one encapsulates everything that makes Matt Champion so great; he brings a charismatic personality with a flow that’s just laidback enough to leave you wanting more. Kevin’s hook is guaranteed to get stuck in your skull after one spin and Dom flows more smoothly than he usually does — which is saying something. JOBA, primarily a vocalist and the group’s sound engineer, snaps on his verse with flow and pitch you won’t hear anywhere else.
Lap you in a UFO, I ain’t started yet/Still gotta figure exactly where to park it at.”
The best BH song to date. If you listen to one, make it this one. With jazzy drums and horns, summery guitar, and nostalgic record scratches, it features one of the prettiest and grooviest instrumentals the group has ever laid to track. Kevin spits a hook that is as unorthodox as it is catchy. JOBA scales back his demeanor and pours his heart out on the album’s best verse.
Anxious, impatient, and always wanting something different/I hate the way I’m feeling, I’m sick of chasing feelings.
Guest vocalist Ryan Beatty sings a heart-wrenching hook over a spacey, somber instrumental that features a moody trap beat and meandering guitar. Merlyn brings his best verse to date with an odd, high-pitched inflection that I love.
I wanna die during sex or religion/God, and pussy only know my intentions.
I love this instrumental: trap beat, overblown bass, and keys that alternate between subtle and commanding. The hook is simple, repetitive, and tight. Matt Champion shows off his falsetto; his preface to Kevin’s hook is my favorite vocal performance across the Saturation trilogy.
I got a lot on my mind, not enough hours to shed/Not enough trust to believe, not enough feeling to care.
So, there you have it. If you’re trying to get into the Internet’s first boyband — something you should be trying to do — listen to these nine tracks. If this playlist doesn’t get you hooked, I don’t know what will. Make sure to watch their music videos, too. Whether he’s behind the mic or the camera, Mr. Abstract can do no wrong.