Kevin Abstract in a Post-Brockhampton World
Brockhampton ended on January 14th, 2022, by releasing two studio albums in quick succession—both of which are good endstops to the long history of the band. Calling back to both the new and old era of hip-hop by taking inspiration from Kanye West, Odd Future, Wu Tang Clan, and Dipset, Brockhampton created music that was so extremely different from anything that was coming out before and during their time. By doing this, they created a massive and dedicated following. The end of Brockhampton closed a chapter that was long overdue; it was an act that could only last so long without losing its heart. At the center of it all was Kevin Abstract, the lead orchestrator. Abstract was the creator of the band; he had an idea and he wanted it to stand out.
The self-titled “All-American Boy Band” made up of singers, rappers, songwriters, producers, directors, designers, etc. started in 2010 after Clifford Ian Simpson, later to be known as Kevin Abstract, posted a call for people to join his band on a Kanye West forum. The members of the band were from all over the world, some as far as Ireland. But Abstract said that if they wanted to join, everyone would have to drop everything and move to Texas. Now it's 2023, and they have gone their separate ways after creating deep history and a discography of good music. They were a part of the movement to make hip-hop more inclusive by singing and rapping about topics like homophobia and misogyny in songs like “NEW ORLEANS” and “QUEER”, to name a few, and even though Brockhampton had a short run, they had an tremendously influential one. Everyone who knows Brockhampton has an opinion about them, good or bad.
Abstract had done two EP’s in the past between and during the time that he was a part of Brockhampton, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, and Arizona Baby. Both of the albums are representative of the music that the band was making at the time, and despite the music coming directly from Abstract, the influence of the band still looms heavily over his solo projects (including the album covers). The heavy production, synth-based, high energy, hollow trap is prevalent in both of his albums, but he sheds this skin to wear a new one.
In “Blanket,” Abstract makes a sound that sounds both so new and so nostalgic at the same time. At the Fall-Winter Prada show earlier this year, Abstract spoke to GQ about his life after Brockhampton and why he might have been interested in making the shift, “I’m trying to figure out my life. My band broke up, and I don’t know what I’m doing.” He has dipped his toes in rock music before, on songs such as “BOOGIE” and “SUMMER”, but not in the way he does on “Blanket”. It is loud and it is raw. It is directly linked to the 90s-era grunge rock and the emo and pop-punk scene in the 2000s. It sounds like an All Time Low song mixed with Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Abstract describes the song and the coming album in a press release, stating that he “wanted to make a Sunny Day Real Estate, Nirvana, Modest Mouse type of record.”
Despite the seemingly contrasting set of musical influences in “Blanket” when compared to his previous works, he mentions that he still wants “Blanket” to ‘hit like a rap album’. By being heavy on the distorted guitar and creating a messily organized drumline, he channels the disoriented confusion of 90s grunge. Instead of singing and rapping in the melodic and soulful way he does on his other tracks, Abstract whispers gruffly the lyrics “Memory, memory / There's no you's and no me's”, opening the song with its chorus. In the post chorus and underlying the rest of the song is his screaming—which might be the only part of the song that doesn’t sound particularly “messy”. Even though screaming is inherently chaotic, Abstract is able to use it as an instrument. It might be to express the themes of pain that prevail through the track, but it also adds structure and order to it. Nonetheless, the song is hard to grasp; “Blanket” is like a spiking wave with the screams acting as a straight line cutting through it.
So far, he has accomplished his jump into the rock world with his latest single. When I first heard the song, it shocked me. The constant genre-bending and creative aspirations of Kevin Abstract continue to amaze me ever since I first started listening to his music in Brockhampton. He has an ear for creating things that can, initially, seem difficult to get into, but still manage to sound pleasant. Sometimes, upon the first listen, it is hard to decide whether some of his music is good or bad. Is it just noise and sounds or is it a complex interweaving of music and ideas? Most of the time, though, Abstract strikes gold. When he does not, he uses the experience to try again.
“Blanket” is Abstract stepping away from the name of Brockhampton and trying something new and exciting. The single will hopefully create a good portrait of the music that we should be expecting from an innovator like Abstract and continues his reputation of being someone we should all look out for.