GQ Videos

Brockhampton's Kevin Abstract Explains His Iconic Videos

The artistic mastermind of the rap group-slash-boy band breaks down the inspirations and tells behind-the-scenes stories of the videos for "Gummy," "Junky," "Star," and more.

Released on 6/24/2019

Transcript

00:01
I don't know what to do with this cigarette.
00:03
I don't smoke.
00:03
[Crew Member] You don't smoke?
00:04
Nah, I was trying to look cool.
00:06
Like some Joaquin Phoenix shit, ya know?
00:11
♪ I speak in tongues ♪ Junky.
00:11
♪ and I arrive without a damn mention ♪
00:13
♪ It's kinda sick and I was born in 1996 and ♪
00:16
Anything I did during the Saturation era,
00:18
I didn't expect it have any sort of impact on my career.
00:21
I was just doing stuff to survive and to express myself.
00:25
The first Brockhampton album, Saturation,
00:27
that's kind of when I decided
00:28
to really direct our own stuff.
00:30
We would normally put out a song,
00:33
see how people responded to that song,
00:34
and then have a week to make the next video.
00:36
So it's kind of like just paying attention
00:40
to the echo chamber and seeing what people are saying
00:44
and using that as inspiration
00:45
on how to make the next video better.
00:48
I like Spike Jonze a lot.
00:49
We did this TV show on Viceland and I got to meet him.
00:55
And he saw the first cut of our TV show
01:00
and he basically said it wasn't as original
01:03
and cool as it could be, and he was like,
01:04
You should use your neighborhood more
01:06
and go around your neighborhood and do things
01:08
that are right in front of you and make the most of that.
01:11
And that honestly changed everything for me.
01:13
It made me reimagine the stuff
01:15
that was right in front of me, if that makes sense.
01:18
I starting seeing my neighborhood
01:19
as this giant set piece with a ton of character to it.
01:23
And I would send him the videos we were making
01:27
and he kind of became my teacher every week.
01:30
He would give me notes and critique the video
01:33
we put out the week before.
01:34
So I would use those notes and that feedback
01:37
and apply it to the next video.
01:39
♪ Man on the moon, I'm marooned, I ain't trippin' ♪
01:40
♪ I'm on a mission ♪
01:41
♪ And every time that I speak they ain't skippin' ♪
01:42
For Junky, I listened to the song
01:43
like a million times on loop and I would just go
01:45
on Tumblr or whatever and find as many images
01:48
and just steal my favorite things and recreate them.
01:51
At the beginning of the video, Roberto,
01:54
who is our webmaster in the group,
01:57
he opens the video and he talks about Jaden Smith
02:00
and how we're on a search for him.
02:03
[speaks Spanish]
02:05
And Rob is kind of the narrator
02:08
of the entire Brockhampton universe.
02:09
We open all the videos with him.
02:11
It was actually inspired by Jackass.
02:14
You know, they'd be like, What's up,
02:16
it's Johnny Knoxville or something like that.
02:17
Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville, welcome to Jackass.
02:19
And I kind of wanted to do a rip of that.
02:22
Just add a little bit of narrative to it.
02:24
♪ Delete my tweets because I'm ashamed ♪
02:25
♪ Of being a fucking Simpson ♪
02:26
The aspect ratio was inspired by American Honey
02:31
by Andrea Arnold.
02:35
Normally, when I do a video, it kind of comes right off
02:38
of me watching a movie a bunch of times in theaters.
02:40
I watched it like eight times in theaters
02:42
and it's a three hour long movie.
02:44
The aspect ratio made everything
02:45
on screen feel really intimate,
02:46
and I wanted our music videos to feel the same way,
02:48
because it was like the way
02:50
people met us for the first time.
02:51
For the Junky video was the first time
02:52
we ever did casting outside of the group.
02:55
So we did a casting call
02:57
and had some of our fans in the video.
02:59
Which was cool they're running around the neighborhood
03:00
and wearing dresses.
03:02
And we had ballerinas in my room with a bunch of fog.
03:05
The smoke alarm kept going off.
03:07
♪ Twistin' on that syrup 'til I hear the crackin' ♪
03:09
[alarm buzzes] I put my hand up.
03:10
It looks really cool cause I go up and no one knows
03:13
what it is, but I'm trying to stop the smoke alarm thing.
03:15
When Merlyn is in the bathtub with Froot Loops,
03:18
I couldn't come up with anything for his part
03:19
and I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted
03:22
to be in a bathtub with a bunch of cereal.
03:23
♪ Hot bars in the summer ♪
03:25
♪ If I had the option, I would do it all again ♪
03:28
♪ If I had the option, I would do it all again ♪
03:31
For months after that, the bathtub was really gross
03:34
so no one went in there.
03:35
It was like five giant boxes of Froot Loops.
03:38
For the devil angel moment,
03:40
I was just inspired by Joba's verse.
03:42
I just saw that in my head, I don't know.
03:44
We set up a big green screen in one of the rooms
03:47
and knocked it out really quick.
03:49
It came out cool, I like that part a look.
03:51
♪ Why you always rap about being gay ♪
03:54
♪ Cause not enough niggas rap and be gay ♪
03:56
I think after our first album that got a lot of attention,
04:00
I saw people online saying I talked about being gay a lot,
04:04
so I just asked myself that question
04:06
and I answered it in the song.
04:08
And it honestly did a lot for me,
04:10
because now I can talk about being gay as much as possible
04:13
and people reference that verse, which is cool.
04:17
Gummy.
04:18
[Gummy by Brockhampton]
04:23
I watched Baby Driver, I think, eight times as well
04:26
so I wanted to do something that was like a bank robbery
04:29
or something like that, so we just kind of had
04:31
a fake robbery in our neighborhood.
04:34
Obviously it's very inspired, wardrobe-wise,
04:37
by Reservoir Dogs, we had the suits on and stuff.
04:40
And we also had the names
04:42
throughout the video, which was cool.
04:44
♪ Keep my heart with my dogs, keep my car in the yard ♪
04:46
And that was an idea that came at the end,
04:48
cause we didn't really know how to tie the video together
04:50
and it was cool that we had that little touch.
04:52
The most challenging part of making the Gummy music video
04:54
was we had an alpaca at our house.
04:57
♪ Cash don't last, my friends will ride with me ♪
05:00
And the alpaca was just going
05:01
around the house and around the neighborhood.
05:03
I just really wanted to use some sort of animal
05:07
so I looked up all these animals online.
05:09
It was fun.
05:10
I miss those days a lot, very wholesome.
05:14
Those days, when we were making all those videos,
05:16
there was just less pressure and everything was fun.
05:18
We were just doing what we wanted.
05:20
I would love to inject innocence
05:22
and vulnerability back into our newer stuff.
05:25
Which we're leaning into, 100%.
05:28
I think with the newer stuff, it feels more like that, yeah.
05:33
Lamb. ♪ I thank you for that ♪
05:40
For our music video, Lamb, we were supposed to
05:42
rent a lowrider and take it to somewhere
05:44
like Hillside-ish in California, but we didn't do it
05:47
because me and Ashlyn got into a fight that day.
05:51
Ashlyn is my friend from Texas.
05:53
When he moved to California with us,
05:55
he was just supposed to run our social media
05:56
and he didn't know how to work a camera.
05:58
And when I wanted to direct my own videos,
06:01
it made sense to go with him,
06:02
because we both liked the same kind of movies
06:04
and he just picked up a camera
06:05
and we kind of created our own visual language together.
06:09
And I wouldn't really make anything
06:11
with anyone other than him.
06:13
I don't remember what the fight was about,
06:14
but we got into a fight.
06:15
And then hours went by and we decided
06:17
to just film it in the front yard.
06:21
I've learned that every time I try to make
06:23
a polished music video, if I have a set,
06:25
then there's all these people
06:26
and I'm trying to tell them what to do, I fail.
06:28
It's like the worst thing ever.
06:30
But if it's just me and Ashlyn
06:31
and just a few guys in the group
06:32
and we're in front of our house,
06:34
that's when I've made my most effective work.
06:37
We can finish an edit in like seven hours.
06:43
There's no feedback from anyone
06:45
except the people who are in the group
06:47
and our management and close friends.
06:51
I never see the music video in my head before we finish it.
06:55
Once we get all the images, I'll just sit
06:58
next to our editor, HK, and piece it together.
07:01
It's more like a puzzle and seeing what feels right,
07:03
which images move us the most.
07:05
Sometimes that process can be a lot of fun,
07:07
sometimes not really.
07:08
It's not fun when I get frustrated
07:10
and I don't know what to do with all the pieces.
07:11
That's when I want to give up.
07:13
Star.
07:14
[Star by Brockhampton]
07:16
The Star music video's my favorite video we've done.
07:20
It didn't require much thinking,
07:22
it just came to me immediately, I guess.
07:25
♪ Standing on my own two legs ♪
07:26
We're all blue because I was watching
07:27
a bunch of Hype Williams' videos,
07:29
and there's this one Busta Rhymes video
07:31
where they're red and I just decided blue.
07:34
Blue is also less problematic,
07:37
if you want to be painted a color.
07:38
Hype Williams is a big inspiration.
07:40
I think a lot of music videos are really inspired
07:43
by Hype Williams right now, so I'm kind of
07:45
leaning to the other side of that.
07:48
I don't know what that means, I'm trying to feel it out.
07:49
But everything kind of looks like an old 90's
07:52
hip hop music video right now,
07:54
which was cool to me at one point,
07:55
but I'm not really fuckin' with it right now.
07:58
I don't know why, it's kind of played.
08:01
Everything we did for the music videos,
08:02
it was always rooted in how can we have the most fun.
08:05
And how can we look like we're having
08:06
a bunch of fun on camera.
08:07
♪ I don't care for what they gotta say ♪
08:09
People want to see friends together,
08:11
enjoying each other, brotherhood.
08:13
We kind of got in trouble when we did
08:15
some of the Saturation I videos,
08:17
because we were living in South Central
08:19
and I think, as the video started to gain traction,
08:22
there was people in the neighborhoods
08:24
and maybe their kids would tell them
08:27
that they're in the videos, and some of these people
08:29
didn't want to be on camera or filmed or put on YouTube,
08:32
so they would come and press us.
08:34
Knock at the door and ask us to stop filming.
08:36
It got kinda sketch.
08:39
New Orleans.
08:40
♪ Nothing different now, all around now ♪
08:42
That video's a one-take video and we just ran with it.
08:46
♪ Angle widescreen, couple sips of Tanqueray ♪
08:48
We were on tour in Australia.
08:52
We made this documentary about the story
08:54
of Brockhampton, I guess.
08:56
And we were playing it in theaters
08:57
and we had this screening in Australia
09:00
and after the screening, we decided
09:01
to shoot the music video right there
09:02
with all of the fans that were in the theater
09:05
and it was a lot of fun.
09:07
The lighting that was in the room already was perfect
09:10
for the mood and tone of the music video.
09:12
We kind of just freestyled at first
09:13
and let the performers figure out
09:15
what they wanted to do and the audience kind of
09:18
moved around us and they were there to support us, in a way.
09:21
♪ Different house with some different functions ♪
09:23
♪ Tell 'em boys, don't run from us ♪
09:24
People don't like that video, though.
09:25
People don't like that video cause they think it's lazy.
09:27
I like simple and effective stuff, though.
09:30
I don't think it's lazy, I think people want to see a lot
09:32
of shit sometimes cause they're programmed to want that.
09:35
But also maybe, it's just not as dope
09:38
as it could be for a simple video.
09:41
I don't know.
09:42
Because people do like simplicity as well.
09:43
I'm thinking out loud, you don't have to use any of this.
09:45
♪ Take two sips, all the things ♪
09:47
♪ That I could do ♪ Peach.
09:48
♪ The cops come, then we dip, baby ♪
09:50
♪ Back when we was just friends, baby ♪
09:52
My favorite moment in the peach video is the opening
09:55
where Dominic Fike is hanging out the side of the car
09:57
with his hand out the window, cause that's
09:59
the very first thing I saw in my head when I heard the song.
10:01
It feels very summer-y.
10:04
For Peach we wanted to do the split screen thing,
10:06
because some stuff was strong on its own,
10:09
but I felt like it'd be stronger
10:10
next to another strong image.
10:12
Once we got down to the edit, we realized
10:13
it kind of looked cooler that way.
10:16
I've learned that I need to make more effective work,
10:21
more impactful stuff, visually.
10:25
That's all I wanna do, really.
10:27
And just reach higher.
10:29
That's something I learned from Shia LaBeouf,
10:30
is you can keep it DIY and simple,
10:34
but if you're not reaching you're really not doing anything.