Digital Writing Project: An Album Review of Brockhampton’s Album – Saturation III

Homosexuality in Rap and How 15 Friends That Make Music Together Became a Powerhouse in Hip-Hop Music

After releasing two full-length albums, Saturation I II in the same year, progressive, queer, American hip-hop boy band Brockhampton dropped Saturation III, a 12-track project that launched the group directly into the spotlight. This album came as a strong anchor after having just released two projects in the same year, but a final album at the end of the year was the cherry on top of a wonderful 2017 for hip-hop music.

Album cover for Saturation III.

The album dropped on December 15, 2017 and includes hit tracks such as “BOOGIE”, “RENTAL”, and “BLEACH”, each of which easily surpass the 10 million plays mark on Spotify, on top of the millions of views on YouTube each music video the group generate upon release. That said, the album, for the most part, was received extremely well, by hip-hop head and general music fan alike. Saturation III debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200 and had equivalent to a total of 35,418 sales, 24,935 of which were pure album sales.

Here’s the music video for BOOGIE, which was release December 12, 2017.

I would say I was pleasantly surprised by this album, but I honestly wasn’t because these guys consistently drop jewel after jewel. I found myself enjoying every song for its very own, unique reason, something I value greatly in hip-hop music, as most of it is over saturated and sounds exactly the same and has little to no variance in sound.

The album’s songs touch on a lot of subjects but there are three main points and topics I’d specifically like to focus on: homosexuality and queer acceptance in hip-hop, homophobia in hip-hop, from the 90s and early 2000s to now, and queer representation in hip-hop. That’s another reason why I rate these guys so highly, because their lyrics and message have actual meaning behind them and aren’t just repetitive dribble about money, hoes, and drugs.

The 15 members of Brockhampton posing for an interview. Photo by Ashlan Grey.

Brockhampton consists of 15 members, five rappers, a few singers, producers and sound engineers, a graphic designer, a photographer, a web designer, and their manager. The Texas-based group was founded and is led by Kevin Abstract, real name Clifford Ian Simpson, an American rapper who frequently sings about his sexuality and the challenges and bigotry he faced in Texas because of it.

Kevin recruited most members of the group from his group of friends in the high school he went to and the rest he met through online forum “KanyeToThe”. The group found success throughout the year of 2017 with their music videos initially reaching hundreds of thousands then eventually millions of views. The creativity and weirdness of the music video is what drew people in and created the hype while the lyrics, rapping skills, and production value is what kept people around.

Something that the group touches on a lot is homosexuality in hip-hop, their struggles with identity and life, and the eventual fame and acceptance their music brought to them. The media, in general, enforces that there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality. This is something that obviously helped make it much easier for gay and bi rappers to come out as queer and not lose their respective careers over it. [5]

Representation of homosexuality in hip-hop is a lot easier in the age of the Internet, where like-minded individuals can meet and discuss their points and views in a relatively safe space, as long as you don’t visit any notorious public message boards. Digital culture in 2018 is very significant in most areas in life, it is something that shapes everyday culture. It is argued that the audience, that is, the consumers of everything the internet has to offer, is what creates our digital media, something that is fluid and ever changing. (Thumim, Nancy, 2012, pgs. 20-22.)

This meme is poking fun at frontman Kevin Abstract’s lyrics in most of the songs where he raps, which are, as you guessed it, about him being gay. (Note that this is all in good fun.)

Kevin Abstract, specifically, openly raps about his sexuality a lot, often being seeing as a one-dimensional by people who aren’t into the group. This is something that is generally seen as unacceptable in the world of hip-hop, but I am a firm believer that in 2018, that is almost not the case anymore. These days it is not uncommon that an artist comes out as gay and gets plenty of support, old and new, something that I believe to be very progressive and leading hip-hop in the right direction. [6]

In track “JOHNNY”, Kevin says “Could’ve got a job at McDonald’s, but I like curly fries. That’s a metaphor for my life, and I like taller guys. Could’ve got a deal if I wanted, but I like owning shit, and I like making shit, and I like selling it.” The first half of this sequence is Kevin just stating that he’s too good to be working at McDonald’s and also that he prefers his boys taller than he is. The second half of the rhyme scheme is him simply stating that he wants to stay independent and not sign to a label, something that is often seen as a bad idea for up-and-coming artists because labels often want what’s best for them, and not the actual artist(s).

A member of the group, Ameer Vann, photoshopped in for this meme. There is no ill will for this meme, it’s just friends poking fun at each other.

Another meme with Ameer Vann and the Saturation II album cover. This one is fairly straightforward.

The group often has lyrics that state that verbal threats, baseless, ignorant hate, and sometimes even bodily harm was inflicted upon members of the group for the sole reason of being gay, which brings me to the predicament that is homophobia in modern hip-hop, something that I personally believe is on the way out the door, although not entirely gone yet. Being queer and from a place like Texas is bound to cause troubles for you, especially as a young, gay black man. This is something Kevin has rapped about on many songs, from his solo career to his work with Brockhampton.

In “BOOGIE”, Kevin sings “I’ve been beat up my whole life. I’ve been shot down, kicked out twice. Ain’t no stopping me tonight. I’ma get all the things I like” and he repeats this a few times during the chorus. In the song “JUNKY” from Saturation II, Kevin also states that where he’s from, people ‘like him’ get called ‘f**got’ and killed, something that is very similar, in a homophobia-in -hip-hop kind of way.

The music industry has, especially in regards to hip-hop music, a clear sexual hierarchy in how things are supposed to be. From toxic masculinity to heteronormative gender schemes and their relationship in creating what seems like an aura of homophobia in the hip-hop community, it can definitely seem like there’s a lot of hate for queer folk, at least on the outside looking in. (Potter, C., 2013, p. 358.)

(Outside one of their shows, Kevin trolling his fans outside the venue.)

Finally, sexuality and sexual expression in hip-hop, specifically through the internet as a medium. It’s no wonder that a group like this was mostly formed through conversations that happened online between strangers-turned-eventual-best-friends. The embodied digital identity that these guys had created on an internet forum allowed them to open up more and feel more comfortable with themselves. (Van Doorn, Niels, 2011, p. 537.)

Also, in “STUPID”, Kevin says “America’s favourite, I do my best and they hate it. It’s like I’m stuck in the matrix, and I’m stuck losing patience. While they stuck on they day shift, I hate my boyfriend’s fragrance. I’m a f**got, I say it, I scream that shit like I mean it. Yeah, I’m ugly and genius.” I really like this verse because Kevin just goes all out and places that label on himself, something not many artists are willing to do. For example, popular hip-hop and R&B artist iLoveMakonnen came out as bisexual in early 2017, something that he fought with internally for a very long time, for fear of ruining his own career. [4]

In conclusion, I thoroughly and extensively enjoyed Saturation III and I continue to listen the 12 songs on the album to and from work and school almost every day. This is not a typical album review, I just wanted to touch on the group, as a whole, and what kind of light they are positively shining onto the LGBTQ+ community and how much I appreciate the work they’ve done for the community I am proudly a part of. The album’s a 10/10 from me, boss.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Thumim, Nancy (2012). Self-Representation and Digital Culture. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2012.

[2] Van Doorn, Niels (2011). “Digital Spaces, Material Traces: How Matter Comes to Matter in Online Performances of Gender, Sexuality and Embodiment.” Media, Culture & Society, p. 531–547.

[3] Potter, C. (2013). Thou Shalt Commit: The Internet, New Media, and the Future of Women’s History. Journal of Women’s History, 25(4), p. 350-362.

[4] http://www.vulture.com/2017/02/theres-still-homophobia-in-rap.html

[5] https://www.bet.com/music/2017/01/20/hip-hop-lgbt-community.html

[6] http://thelunchtabletalks.com/lgbt-hip-hop-representation-matters-now/

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