Much to the group’s chagrin, media coverage tends to hedge when using the group’s chosen description. They’re referred to as, among other appellations, a “self-proclaimed boyband,” “internet boyband”, “self-described boyband,” “not your typical boyband.” It’s easy to imagine the thoughts implied in these modifiers: They don’t look like a boyband. Do boybands rap?
Brockhampton is too unruly and too black to fit most people’s image of a boyband. So the term is not taken at face value, instead getting treated as a put-on or ploy that needs unpacking. True stans insist on the moniker; the only acceptable additions are “All-American” or “Since One Direction, best.”
Boybands are typically combine a handful of young male vocalists who don’t play instruments and are brought together by a powerful producer like Simon Cowell or, to take it back a few generations, Maurice Starr. Their aims, both sonically and aesthetically, are orchestrated with an eye for popular appeal.
For an independent boyband, taking a label becomes a way of shedding labels. It’s way of deconstructing how a multicultural, DIY, queer-inclusive group of young men can be defined. It’s a way of preempting the conversation.
Here’s where it gets complicated: they are also quite self-consciously more than a boyband. They call their house “The Factory,” and if you ask them who they seek to emulate they’re as likely to say Apple, Facebook, or Spike Jonze as Kanye West, One Direction, or N.W.A. Brockhampton is a one-stop shop: a boyband and the enterprise that produces the boyband. It’s an artistic project with a horizon that exceeds music. For Brockhampton, the lines separating musician, media company, and film studio are just questions of will and ambition.