In a time of unprecedented divisiveness, a tight-knit 13-member boy band, comprised entirely of millennials and Gen Zers from all over the world, is taking the music industry by storm. And what a storm it is.
BROCKHAMPTON, though still in its infancy as a group, has already pushed hip-hop and R&B music to new, unventured territories.
For starters, they met and formed on a blog called “KanyeToThe”. Their founding member and leader, Kevin Abstract, is openly gay. And although traditional stereotypes about homosexuality in hip-hop are finally being challenged, besides Frank Ocean there aren’t many famous and openly gay or bi men in the mainstream scene. There certainly isn’t anyone who writes and raps as directly about it as Abstract does. For instance, the song “Something About Him” on their latest album, iridescence, is a passionate love song dedicated to Abstract’s boyfriend, Jaden Walker.
Less headline-worthy, yet just as unique and important to their identity, is where BROCKHAMPTON’s members were born and raised. Hailing from three different US states and three different countries gives the group a variety of geographical and cultural influences to draw from. The diversity of their origins–not to mention the group’s sheer roster size–naturally makes BROCKHAMPTON dynamic and compelling, and it creates a certain worldly aura about them that appeals to audiences across the globe, as opposed to a single city, region, or country. That’s something that usually takes years for musicians to accomplish, even in the internet era of music.
And then, there’s the simple fact that this boy band is genuinely special. Their music is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Erratic, yet flawless production combined with unapologetically defiant, hit-you-in-the-heart songwriting makes BROCKHAMPTON’s music addicting. One song feels like three. And three feel like a lifetime. Depending on the songs–and your emotional capacity–that can be a good thing or a bad thing.
Their visual aesthetic is stunning and their live performances are, from what I can tell, chaotic, enlivening, and downright memorable. They perform with emotion, each of them teeming with love, anger, passion, and pride. Best of all, they’re not afraid to make a statement, evidenced by them wearing bulletproof vests emblazoned with social stigmas during some of their biggest sets in 2018.
In an industry that’s oversaturated with copycats and lookalikes, BROCKHAMPTON stands out. This is a boy band that isn’t merely weaving themselves into the cultural fabric of music and fashion; they’re sewing on entirely new layers themselves and influencing the future of art.
And that’s exactly why brands should be taking notice.
What a Brand x BROCKHAMPTON Collaboration Could Look Like
There’s nothing novel about artist and brand collaborations, but with the ever-changing landscape of the music industry and music consumption, there’s never been more of an impetus for musicians to find additional revenue streams outside of album sales and touring alone. For most of them, that requires paying close attention to other opportunities, particularly with merchandise. As a result, many of today’s artists sell a wide range of merch on their websites and at shows, and some have even created their own clothing brands.
Because of this–and the simple fact that musicians always seem to be on the cutting-edge of fashion–it makes sense that many of the artist-brand collaborations we’re seeing today are happening in the world of clothing and footwear. So, if BROCKHAMPTON is going to do anything significant with a brand, I’d expect it to be in that world, too.
But what brand is the right brand? And how should BROCKHAMPTON go about a partnership, if they indeed choose to? Luckily for them, plenty of their artist peers can serve as case studies of what’s working.
Tyler, the Creator
For me, the immediately obvious example brings us to the former LA hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, as their founding and most famous member, Tyler, the Creator, is in the middle of what appears to be a hugely successful collaboration with Converse. The artist and his own well-established clothing label, GOLFWANG, have partnered with the 111-year old brand to create a new line of shoes, making Converse culturally relevant beyond their iconic and seemingly timeless Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. I don’t think it’s hurting Tyler’s bank account, either.
Chance the Rapper
Out in Chicago, Chance the Rapper made an astonishing $6 million in one year alone from the sales of his “3” hats made by New Era. But Chance is more than a bona fide master of merch, evidenced by his presence in a handful of commercials over the years, including Doritos’ Super Bowl LIII spot with the Backstreet Boys, a couple of lighthearted KitKat spots, and this powerful Nike commercial leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Notice the hat he’s wearing? He’s wearing the same one in every single commercial. Yes, Chance could write a book on marketing.)
Boasting collaborations with JW Anderson, Dior Homme, GUESS, and Calvin Klein, the undisputed male face of fashion in hip-hop and R&B is Harlem rapper and artist A$AP Rocky. In a lot of ways, A$AP Rocky is the high fashion version of Tyler, the Creator. He’s got the same “cool” factor that his west coast counterpart has, and he’s equally adept at pushing the limits of music, fashion, and video in a tasteful, interesting, and strategic way. And he does it all at the same time.
And then, there’s Kanye West. Say what you will about the controversial artist, but his partnership with Adidas turned the shoe and clothing industry on its head. Today, it’s estimated that his fashion brand, Yeezy, is worth over $1 billion.
When it comes to BROCKHAMPTON, I’m guessing they’ll do something that falls somewhere in-between what Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky are doing. Like Tyler and Rocky, BROCKHAMPTON is challenging music norms and successfully playing in different areas of art, all while growing a young and passionate fanbase at the same time.
In terms of what brands BROCKHAMPTON might partner with, I could see them and Champion engaging in something that extends far beyond their previous merch lines. A BROCKHAMPTON x Club 75 collab would turn heads and also make a lot of sense, considering the two have similar visual styles. And on the higher end, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the band link up with a brand like Kenzo or Commes des Garçons. Why? Because those brands are constantly trying new things and taking part in collaborations, whether it’s Kenzo with H&M or Commes des Garçons’ numerous artist collaborations, in addition to their off-shoot label, Black Commes des Garçons, recently teaming up with Nike for a line of shoes.
How successful such a brand x BROCKHAMPTON collaboration will be is anyone’s guess, but I’d wager that by the time it happens, it'll be just as impactful for the brands as Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky have been for their respective partners. Plus, BROCKHAMPTON has something that neither Tyler nor Rocky have, and that's 13 members. Plenty of personalities to appeal to a broad range of consumers, and more than enough models for a fashion show.
Who knows? Maybe one day the boys of BROCKHAMPTON will be regulars at the major fashion weeks in New York, Paris, London, and Milan. Not merely as spectators–but as models, too.