I didn’t dislike the group. I had simply never listened and was naturally averse to the self-professed boyband’s sudden explosion; sometimes hype is just hype, and a lot of hype surrounds BROCKHAMPTON.
I retained that blissfully skeptical mindset as I stepped inside Detroit’s Majestic Theatre to see the rap group live in their second consecutive Detroit show. I made a point to not listen to a single track prior to the concert. I was a blank slate, a tabula rasa with one question: Could BROCKHAMPTON’s live performance, presumably one in which the rappers pulled out all the stops to present the best versions of themselves, impress without bias?
“BROCK-HAMP-TON! BROCK-HAMP-TON!” The audience loudly called on the boyband as the clock struck 9:30, their shouts filling the auditorium and emulating the group's all-caps stylization. These people were energized and excited; some even donned the band’s signature neon orange jumpsuit and blue skin paint. This scene was already an indication of the band’s legitimacy; no one paints their body blue to honor a group that’s just alright.
After minutes of anticipation, with increased excitement whenever any human grazed the stage (even an old, white, bald crewmember who was obviously not a member of BROCKHAMPTON), the Brocks stormed the stage to deafening cheers, delivering an undeniably electric sound to match. Immediately, the audience members were moshing, and the rappers were right there with them; six bodies of neon orange (no blue skin) spazzed around the stage, arms flailing and necks twisting in a cluster of chaotic energy as they delivered impressively articulate rhymes for a live rap performance.
This atmosphere was great. For a song or two. Or three. Or four. After a while, though, my concerns mounted. BROCKHAMPTON was testing the threshold of hype. The show was in overdrive with no signs of slowing down. I was ready to write BROCKHAMPTON off as a mindless, artless, tasteless rap group that’s good at jumping around and yelling.
But then the rappers surprised me. Making use of the quirky living-room furniture on stage, most of the Brocks sat down while one sang the chorus of a slow, balladic love song in his falsetto range. Eventually, several members cycled in off the sofa and chairs to accompany him with tasteful verses. This was the change of pace I was looking for.
The rest of the performance was filled with the components of a great live show. The rappers had the audience laughing with some jokes and a Q&A with one of the group’s lovable producers, Jabari Manwa. Additionally, BROCKHAMPTON wasn’t afraid to make statements; after a song about homosexaulity, Kevin Abstract, the group’s openly-gay frontman, jabbed to the audience, “tell your mom and dad BROCKHAMPTON’s pushing the gay agenda on their children,” to resounding cheers and laughter. Finally, the group ended their pre-encore set with two songs from Bearface, the band’s alt-rock vocalist and guitarist who brought musicality to the show with heart-string-pulling vocals and a ripping guitar solo (yes, a guitar solo at a rap show).
When the group returned to the stage to close out the night with two final songs, I had a new appreciation for the hype the rappers were delivering and began to understand what BROCKHAMPTON was all about. With 14 total members all from different backgrounds and influences (a product of forming through a Kanye West fan forum), today’s most popular boy band isn’t “about” anything in particular, but rather it’s an eclectic bunch of artists that embrace diversity both socially and sonically, delivering that message through their dynamic live performance.
As the rappers stood at the edge of the stage and eerily swayed in unison to the heavy beat of their last number while bathed in blood-orange light, the crowd once again shouted, “BROCK-HAMP-TON! BROCK-HAMP-TON!” This time, I was shouting with them, as I could officially consider myself a BROCKHAMPTON fan.