Computers create ghosts
This past March at SXSW, I watched the debut of Brockhampton, the self-proclaimed “All American Boy Band” born from the ashes of Alive Since Forever (a cross-country collective of rappers, producers, singers, visual artists, and friends bound by Internet forums, largely KanyeToThe). The group’s set consisted of very loosely synchronized movement, matching uniforms that made them look like a sporty cult, and a set of previously unheard songs.
As a follower and occasional chronicler of Brockhampton’s evolution, the performance thrilled me. As a fan, it challenged and confused me—equally exciting states in their owns ways, forcing my brain to play catch up and try to piece together a logical narrative in real time. Looking around the crowd, some people watched with rapt fixation, others stared at the stage blankly.
Brockhampton’s SXSW performance existed to make viewers feel something. Whether that “something” was hatred or enjoyment, whether it sparked a new thought or hammered home closely held negative opinions of weirdo rappers, it created a fault line for those in attendance. It drove home a belief I’ve held for the better part of my adult life: Great art should unsettle. Either inspire hatred or devotion—the middle ground paves a fast path to a graveyard no one visits after very long.
I won’t tell you that Brockhampton member Kevin Abstract’s video for “Save,” a single from his stellar 2014 project MTV1987, is a great video or a terrible video. Its first seconds made me uncomfortable; that discomfort lasted throughout and held my attention. I hope you watched “Save” before you started reading this post. I also hope Kevin continues to create art that unsettles. It’s far more interesting (and, for those with eager, open minds, inspiring) than aiming for charts whose rules won’t even exist in a decade.