Brockhampton is redefining what it means to be an American boy band. Founded by the young Texas-raised creative visionary and artist Kevin Abstract in 2015, the 15-strong crew consists of self-motivated young men ranging from rappers to art directors. Originally connecting online through a notable Kanye West fan forum, the group is a completely self-sufficient creative powerhouse. In the two years since its conception, they have released the ambitiously multi-genre All-American Trash mixtape, followed by their captivatingly honest, riled-up-rap and warm-chorus-filled debut album Saturation, supported Abstract on tour, and even got their own TV show — all the while handling the ins and outs of their creative output independently.
"I think what we're doing hasn't really ever been done before," Kevin Abstract told me last week, and he might be right. Brockhampton is finding form as an entirely independent creative agency and record label, as much as it is as a thriving musical group with diehard fans across the country. But what is especially notable and unique here is that the members of Brockhampton consider the band a family as much as anything else, finding in one another creative motivation and love and support at every turn.
With a new album and tour in the works, a who's-who felt timely. Over the phone from the new Brockhampton factory in North Hollywood, each of the members shared their stories about why being part of Brockhampton is so important to them.
20-year-old founder and rapper from Corpus Christi, Texas.
We were in another group called AliveSinceForever. I kind of felt I didn't have as much power as I wanted, so, I'm like, I'm just gonna make my own thing and I'm gonna build it how I want to. I'm gonna reach out to people from ASF to see if they want to come and join me. We're making a new thing. If not, it's all good, Imma do it anyway. That's kinda what happened. We had moved to San Marcos, TX, at the time. It was a nice fresh start.
I just wanted to have my own dynasty. I wanted my own Cash Money or Roc-A-Fella. Outside of that, I also wanted my own media company. I always used to say, at the end of the day, I want Brockhampton to be like Paramount or something, and you don't really know who's behind it. You just think about Brockhampton and all the types of content we provide.
I think what we're doing hasn't really ever been done before because on one end, we're a boy band and on the other end, we're like this media company/ad agency. Also, we want to be record label. So I've never really seen anything truly like it. I don't really have a blueprint to follow besides watching interviews. Well, I guess the blueprint I do follow is Def Jam, in a way, just because it started in a small space, which is so similar to how we started. There's also Apple, it started in a small room and it becomes this huge corporation. Basically how I wanna be.
A lot of these people came into my life at a time I needed them most, so it's like my actual family. They've helped me get through a lot. It's also the best outlet for me to be as creative and be as me as I can be 'cause I know the people I live with and the people I make music with. They're never gonna judge me for what I'm saying on a song or how I act. I can truly say I can be myself around them. It's the best.
20-year-old rapper from Houston, TX.
Brockhampton is important because it's a grind stone. It's a way for me to sharpen myself as an artist — just the way that iron sharpens iron, the artist sharpens the artist. It's a house full of amazing, creative people and they challenge me everyday to be the best artist I can be. Me and Ian [Kevin Abstract] actually met in high school, so I've been a part of the group for a long time. We've been friends, but when I decided to take music seriously, I was working in a car shop in San Marcos [Texas]. I actually had a couple of different jobs, but that was my main job.
My proudest moment was being on stage at Camp Flog Gnaw, but I think the best memory I've had with all these guys was when we first went to Corpus Christi, Texas, for a show. [I was] fourteen or fifteen years old, and that’s when I met Dom [McLennon] and Romil [Hemnani], and kind of everyone that's in the group right now. It was memorable because I had never really left Houston by myself before and we all drove down there and stayed in this house with our friends, and it was kind of a party.
22-year-old artist from The Woodlands, Texas.
[Brockhampton] gives me something that's really rare in life — a large group of people with a similar mindset and similar goal that understand you. It's almost like a family setting inside of a really intense workplace. Having that with 15 people is very rare for me and I'm very blessed to have that. We all wanna push each other to make exactly what we see inside our heads. We all want to push success with each other. In music, there's no end goal, ‘cause we're just always gonna be working on something else. I first started making music by myself, then I met Kevin, Merlyn and Ameer in high school. I found out they made music. One summer, I started hanging out with them and we did some shows together. Then, I ended up really becoming friends with them and making music with them, that was way back.
Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merley
21-year-old producer from Grenada, and 20-year-old producer from Jacksonville, Florida, who make up production duo Q3.
JABARI MANWA: I was a working man, an auditor at a bank, 9-to-5, waking up every morning to go to work and making beats when I came home.
KIKO MERLEY: I was living in South Carolina — at my grandfather's house — I was just making beats from home. I turned 18. That's when I made the move out to Texas.
MANWA: Brockhampton is a great platform to explore our musical endeavors. It's a good thing because all of us are just one big family trying to reach one goal together. That's what it means to me. It's something special that I can a lot of people our age and younger in just in general latching on to that connection. In the coming years, we'll serve a great purpose to the people.
MERLEY: Making Saturation, I’ll never forget that. It was just a crazy energy in the house.
MANWA: Going on tour, and being a part of American Boy Band the TV series, I think so far, that is my most memorable part of being in Brockhampton. It was a completely new experience, and it felt really good to see all of this come to fruition from being on an internet forum to us being portrayed on TV.
Ashlan Grey and Henock “HK” Sileshi
21-year-old photographer and DP from Glen Rose, Texas, and 22-year-old art and creative director from Jacksonville, Florida.
HENOCK “HK” SILESHI: Brockhampton, to me, is a manifestation of people’s imaginations and the idea that if you and a bunch of like-minded other people set forth on something, that anything can be possible. I see Brockhampton as hopefully something that defines a generation, but also redefines a generation in a way, and instead of conforming to norms maybe questions norms a bit.
We all came to the realization that, if we were to make Brockhampton work, we would all need to be together in real life, operating as a unit, in-person. For my last semester of school, I kind of like, faked going to school. I was actually going to libraries and Starbucks and freelancing graphic design to save up money to move out.
ASHLAN GREY: Around the time I met Brockhampton, I had just gotten fired from a job working at Walmart. Whenever they went to San Marcos, TX, I spent at least a weekend every month with them, and I guess the relationship grew from there. A week before they moved [to Los Angeles], [Kevin] called me up, “I need an answer, yes or no, are you coming with us?” I gave him a yes, and now I’m here.
SILESHI: Everybody’s not the same artist in Brockhampton, so you have to be up on your game to cater to some of the artists because they have a vision of what they want, and you want to feel responsible for helping them bring their vision to life. I think more so the challenge is being apt and being aware, being a reference guide and understanding that what works for somebody might not work for everybody — it’s a lot but, you learn a lot about yourself in the process.
GREY: A big thing that I live by is never telling [Brockhampton members] that something can’t be done. I always just try to figure it out. If I were to ever tell them No, we can’t do this, it would make them feel like they’re being limited, and I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they’re limited to do anything.
SILESHI: Working on Saturation was really something we’ve never done before. I think that was the most quintessential Brockhampton thing, making a mixtape in three weeks and making a rollout. What I loved about it was every room was a functioning working room, like the Brockhampton factory is supposed to be.
GREY: I would have to agree, but if I have to say something different, it was moving out into the new house, because it’s such a rewarding feeling, like we leveled up in a sense, all together, too. We didn’t make compromises with anything.
21-year-old rapper from Austin, TX.
I was going to architecture school. One of my professors called me into his office one day and told me, “If you get a hundred [percent] on everything, every exam, quiz, and homework for the year, you’ll pass the class by .4 points." So that night I packed up all my shit. That was a Wednesday. I went to all my classes, packed all my shit, I was in California [with Brockhampton] on Tuesday.
When we played SXSW in  and we all came out in purple trench coats, and we’d never really played big shows as a group before. This show was at the Container Bar in Austin, Texas, and it was just packed, bro. And people knew our stuff. We played “Dirt,” and people went crazy. it was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Ciaran Ruaridh McDonald aka Bearface
24-year-old Brockhampton artist and producer from from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The focus on the group is more than just making music, the focus of the group is more on redefining things and shifting people’s perceptions. The reason why [Kevin] wanted it to be called a boy band [was] kind of [to] redefine the word "boy band." The reason why I think Brockhampton is important is because, it’s not just short-term. We don’t wanna make just one good album, and then have it go away. Brockhampton isn’t just music; it’s film, videos, branding, everything. It’s like a factory, like a business basically, a corporation.
I would go up [to the Factory] a few months at a time and have to leave for a while. It was super draining, going back and forth. Especially with my parents being skeptical, like, What’s the long term of this? You’re spending so much money going back and forth. Where is it going? I was like, It’s fine, just trust me. I think now they’re finally seeing that it’s worth it. But now, I’m good, it’s just really crazy to be able to say, especially coming from Belfast. I have a visa for three years. I was away from America, everyone here, for like, a whole year. I’m glad to be back.
21-year-old web developer and producer from Miami, Florida.
I joined as a producer and then we needed someone to do the website for the group and I volunteered, and I had zero knowledge at the time. I was like a utility player, wherever you needed me, I was there.
[Brockhampton] saved my life first and foremost. I was with people who were into and creating the same things that I was, and that was great. They welcomed me with open arms. I think it’s important — it’s a representation of different backgrounds, and giving a voice to people who may not have a voice in a way. People can really relate to that, in one way or another, just because of how much diversity there is in the group.
When we found out [Kevin] was going to play Odd Future Carnival, that was a very proud moment for me, I was proud of him, just because we admired him so much, and then he finally got the chance to play at [Tyler, The Creator]’s carnival. It just felt like, Wow, this is something.
22-year-old producer from South Windsor, Connecticut.
We lived [in Texas] for a year and we worked on a lot of music. We spent that time getting better at what we do, building a group chemistry, figuring out how to be a boy band, because so much of our work prior to moving in together was done over the internet, text messages, email, whatever, and that was how we would make songs. So we had to learn how to work together in a new way, and that’s what we spent that year doing.
My dad always told me that you don’t need a lot of friends, all you need in life is a couple close friends to get you through, and I have been so fortunate to have 15 best friends that I live with. I get to wake up every day and do what I love with the people I love and they inspire me. It’s kind of like a family. A lot of people aren’t fortunate enough to have one stable family, and I’m lucky enough to have two. It means the world to me. It’s a very good creative environment to be in.
Dominic Michael Simpson a.k.a. Dom McLennon
24-year-old artist from Hartford, Connecticut.
Brockhampton is pretty much like everything I’ve worked towards in my life. The [music] groups I was in before. In order for me to focus on what I could create as much as possible, I had to make some sacrifices, like maybe you don’t have to be the leader. And when I made that realization within myself, when I take a role where I let someone else lead the vision and I let myself focus on the art, it gave me a chance to just grow exponentially, and I never would have had that opportunity if I didn’t have a group like this to have that dynamic with.
Russell Boring aka JOBA
23-year-old artist, producer, and engineer from Houston, TX.
I went to school with [Kevin], Merlyn, Ameer, and Matt, but I was a year older than them. I worked at Number 6 Productions studio in Houston, and I had my own set-up, and they would actually record at my house, and I would charge them for it. As time went on, we just developed a working relationship in that way, in a traditional sense. And then a friendship, and then a creative chemistry that everyone really enjoyed. And then [Kevin] basically told me, “Hey, I want you to be an artist in Brockhampton.” I’ve always looked up to [Kevin], even though he’s younger than me, and it kind of pushed me forward to pursue it and take myself more serious and step into that headspace as a creative person, not just a technical person.
The way [Kevin] leads this thing, and even lead it back then, it was like, “This is gonna work.” And I just never stopped working my ass off since that day. And that was however many years ago and I haven’t stopped, none of us have stopped since then. It’s super trippy. We all moved to San Marcos, Texas, because I was in college out there. I was studying music, vocal performance, because I’ve always enjoyed classical music, I still do. I moved out there and that was the first time that we all met and lived together. I remember I was in school, and [Kevin] mentioned, “We need to move to L.A. Let’s move to L.A. in a year.” And I had like three more years left of school. And in that moment I was like, “Well, I guess I’m moving to L.A.” and kind of put school on the back-burner. And again, it’s because he has this conviction about him, and at that point everyone had that certain conviction and followed that, and now live by it.
When we dropped Saturation, we charted, and it was pretty high. It wasn’t for very long, but it was long enough to validate what we’d been trying to achieve. It was like, “Holy shit, we’re actually on that chart, and we’ve actually been on that chart for a while.” Being independent, and growing up with these people, and it starts out as a dream and you know you suck, but you keep working at it. And then when you see something like that it’s like, “Wow, this has actually kind of transcended the internet in a way,” because we’re actually reaching people, and we’re getting hate comments, which is good because that means it’s reaching people, in order for them to hate it.
Listen to Brockhampton's debut album Saturation.