Brockhampton have already taken over the world. Not too long ago, they were just a bunch of kids from Texas chatting on a Kanye West fan forum. In 2017, they blew the fuck up on the strength of their instant-classic trio of Saturation albums. Last year, they hit #1 with their major-label debut Iridescence. And now, they truly might be “the greatest boy band in the motherfucking world,” as ringleader Kevin Abstract is so fond of proclaiming. Yesterday, the rap collective took over the main stage of the Governors Ball festival at New York’s Randall’s Island Park, performing their first show in six months and kicking the fest into high gear with an hour-plus set that hit like an injection of pure adrenaline.
Brockhampton were supposed to perform at last year’s Gov Ball. That didn’t end up happening. Right before the festival started, they kicked rapper Ameer Vann, one of the original members, out of the group in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations made against him by several women online. Brockhampton cancelled the remainder of their US tour and scrapped the album they were working on to go home and regroup, and Pusha-T, fresh off of the release of his incredible Kanye West-produced album Daytona, was tapped as a last-minute replacement.
So when Brockhampton finally got a chance to return this year, they made it count. Right from the beginning, it was an impressive spectacle. Ciarán “Bearface” McDonald, the group’s angel-voiced, guitar-playing crooner, opened the set by himself, singing the Saturation II cut “SUMMER” from atop a small moving platform suspended above the audience, clad in a metallic silver jumpsuit. As the song concluded, the raucous beat from Saturation III highlight “BOOGIE” kicked in and the rest of Brockhampton, all dressed in matching jumpsuits, emerged from a golden jet plane on the stage held aloft by two giant blue hands. The crowd, of course, went wild.
One of the things that helped Brockhampton explode so quickly is their sheer youthful exuberance, the restless, giddy sense of fun that they always showed in their early low-budget music videos. Now they have enough money lying around to get that moving platform — which they never even used after the opening song — and a golden plane set, both new additions to the Brockhampton experience. But that same spirit was still on full display on Friday evening, as Kevin Abstract, Dom McLennon, Joba, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, and Bearface all jumped and danced and strutted around the stage with a seemingly inexhaustible reserve of energy. They are all each other’s hype men. “If you ain’t tryna go crazy, find something else to do,” McLennon said at one point. No one took him up on the offer.
Brockhampton frontloaded their set with Saturation favorites like “ZIPPER,” “QUEER,” and “GUMMY” before moving into Iridescence tracks. They concluded with “1997 DIANA,” “1998 TRUMAN,” and “199 WILDFIRE,” the troika of songs they released from the scrapped album The Best Years Of Our Lives. But the emotional peak of the night was without a doubt SATURATION III’s “BLEACH.” “Can we all sing the chorus to “BLEACH” together like a family?” Kevin Abstract asked the crowd. “Tell me why I cry/ When I feel it/ Tell me why, tell me why,” a chorus of voices rang out, seemingly springing from the entire assembled crowd. Everyone knew the words. Brockhampton, like Wu-Tang before them, is for the children.