Brockhampton Credit: Ashlan Grey

Bless Brockhampton for spiking pop’s punch bowl. This sprawling group of rappers, producers, singers, video directors, designers, and a webmaster have ambitions to be America’s next great boy band—scratch that, the world’s next great boy band. As leader Kevin Abstract raps on “Boogie,” off December’s Saturation III (Question Everything, Inc. / Empire), Brockhampton are the “best boy band since One Direction.” Who cares if American audiences think boy bands have to be made up of five twiglike young white men who belt out songs that glisten with the well-financed pizzazz of a Michael Bay blockbuster? Brockhampton do it their way—embracing pop’s past while twisting its shape to build a better future. Their acknowledgement of the history of the pop industrial complex extends into the scope of their lineup. Their nonperforming members have the same rank as those who hold a mike; behind every boy band is a team that made the machine work, and Brockhampton are nothing if not upfront with their fans. When asked about their expansive band roster in a video interview with MTV News, Abstract replied, “Everybody’s a part of the process—we’re like Apple. We’re like Apple and McDonald’s before that Kroc [bleep] ruined everything.” That sort of transparency stems in part from the fact that the version of pop their members grew up listening to was designed to keep listeners at arm’s length—even Brockhampton’s most recent predecessors, One Direction, maintain a distance between themselves and their fans. On “Sweet” rapper-singer Joba condenses the group’s beginnings and perspective into personal anecdotes about growing up aspiring to be like Justin Timberlake and gnawing on ramen after moving to LA to make his dreams come true with Brockhampton: “Wanted to do big things, had to fulfill a dream / One might say I was doomed from the get-go / But those same people assume, ’cause they’ll never know.” Their stylistic goulash of hardcore rap, uptempo 90s club, velvety R&B, and scintillating Top 40 pop doesn’t sound like most contemporary musical acts, but with it, Brockhampton have managed to do what most boy bands hope to achieve: Succeed. In June they self-released their debut album, Saturation, and followed it up with two more Saturation full-lengths before the end of 2017—the third one debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200.   v