music

separating the art from the artist: my experience with brockhampton

I do not support abusers. I support the people who are willing to come forward with their stories knowing they are going to be faced with blame and backlash. I do everything I can to make sure I support artists that do the same.

So, when multiple women came out to tell their experience with Ameer Vann of Brockhampton, about how he was physically and emotionally abusive to them, I was absolutely gutted.

Brockhampton came into my life about a year ago, casually. They constantly popped up on my Twitter, but because I’ve never explored rap music, I didn’t pay much attention. The group, which found its members from a Kanye West fan forum, consisted of six vocalists that were brought together by Kevin Abstract, who had already garnered a fanbase as a solo rapper. One important part of Brockhampton, though, is the inclusion of the rest of their team in the spotlight. In addition to the vocalists, there are producers, designers, and managers who are just as known to their followers and just as integral to the group’s success. They strive to create a safe environment for fans, and being led by a young, proudly gay Black man (Kevin), their presence is starting conversations about homophobia and masculinity in the hip hop community that need to be happening. So many of their songs discuss rape culture, sexism, homophobia, racism, gun violence, mental illness… the list goes on. Brockhampton to me was a gateway into rap and hiphop through a group that existed in the same world as their fanbase; They interacted with the people who loved them, and listened to them so they could be the best possible influence in the community around them. Not to mention their insane work ethic: they released three albums in six months to create a trilogy, along with short films, and interactive experiences to match. Their range of talent, the way they handled themselves as a brand, the issues they stood for, and the people they were pulled me in. It had been a long time since I came across an artist that made me feel the way that Brockhampton did.

When the “allegations” dropped, they began circulating my timeline with rapid speed. My heart sank. I had no trouble cancelling other abusers like XXX or 69, but what was I supposed to do when someone I admired so deeply turned out to be just like them? A lot of people claim that we should be separating the art from the artist, that you can enjoy the music and not agree with the actions of a person who created it. That’s bullshit. By listening to their music (or watching their movies), you are supporting that artist. You’re giving them recognition, which turns into money and notoriety, that ends with them being given a larger platform where they are more likely to continue the cycle of abuse they haven’t been punished for. It’s the reason why people like Chris Brown still have a career– people chose to look past his violent history (and present actions) of domestic abuse and listen to him. That’s why he still has a voice, THAT “separate the art from the artist” ignorance gives him the power to avoid punishment and be put into positions where he repeatedly assaults women.

As more stories from more women trickled out, my fear was recognized. Ameer Vann was an abuser. Ameer Vann was a part of one of my favorite musical groups. Brockhampton– a group that preached about the despicable nature of violence against women– gave an abuser a platform. I felt slimey. I had gone to their concert, bought their merch, streamed their album. This group was supposed to be a safe space and I had been lied to. And there, on the cover of their trilogy of albums, was Ameer’s face.

So I waited. Whispers were forming on what was going to happen, what was the best move for the group. And then, the band dropped an announcement.

the group’s post addressing ameer

 

I let go of the breath I had been holding… Almost. They had kicked him out, but the damage was already done. They had let the victim’s stories be torn apart by trolls for days, with no statement. Some members had refused to acknowledge the victim’s stories as true. Every day that passed with no action from the group made me lose more and more faith that Brockhampton was made up of genuinely good people like I had hoped. I was, and still am, torn on the issue.

It’s been a few months since everything happened, and I’m just now starting to reintroduce some Brockhampton into my music rotation. I couldn’t listen for months, because every time Ameer’s voice came through my speakers I felt sick. I watched as the band tried to move on, and were obviously torn up over the situation, with performances at festivals ending by members breaking down in tears. They cancelled appearances, and even an album (presumably because Ameer was on the tracks). Victims came out to say that they had spoken to members of the band personally about the situation. I didn’t know how to feel. I still don’t, really.

Brockhampton is a group that’s changing the industry– I think for the better. As they regroup, prep for their upcoming fourth album drop, and grow exponentially by the day, I truly want them to be a force that overall, is good. The conversations that people are having about them are ones that need to be had. People who listen to their music are being exposed to raw, emotional, challenging lyrics. It makes both the public and the industry question how they feel about homophobia, how they feel about racism, how they feel about violence. So I’ll keep an eye on them. I’ll hope for their success, if not for them, but for all the kids that relate to their music and need that reassurance in their lives that they’re going to be okay. I wish I could listen to them for the first time again and feel the safety and love that their music brought into my life when I was searching for it. But I can’t. Hopefully, with their new releases, I’ll be able to find some type of solace. Until then, I know how I feel about one thing:

Fuck Ameer Vann for taking away something I valued so deeply, fuck him for hurting women who trusted him, and fuck anyone who still is pathetic enough to support outed abusers.

You cannot separate the art from the artist.

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