Meet Kevin Abstract, the 20 year old LA pop star making songs for outcasts. He writes queer love stories and high school myths in a post- Frank Ocean universe.
His debut album MTV1987 was released in 2014, and received attention from a number of major music blogs and magazine publications. His influences include Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Tyler the Creator, Kid Cudi, Shia Labeouf, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kurt Cobain, Justin Timberlake, Childish Gambino, Evan Spiegel, Steve Jobs and Quentin Tarantino.
In March 2016, Abstract opened for the band The Neighbourhood in England on a week-long tour in Portsmouth, Birmingham, Manchester, and London. The final show was shown on Periscope and teased his new album They Shoot Horses, due out later in 2016. He also confirmed that his next single would be Empty.
At the end of June, Kevin announced that he had changed the title of his upcoming album to American Boyfriend and that it would still be coming later in the year.
Listen and watch the amazing, Palo Alto-esque music video for Empty:
The video for “Empty,” which he directed himself, takes place in a Stranger Things-y suburb and finds him getting head from a fully-uniformed football player to the shock of the athlete’s girlfriend. “I don’t know what it is that I love so much about high school, but I’m attached,” he said. “The empty hallways. The teachers. They made me feel so much. Even if [some of it] was bad.”
Growing up, Abstract was something of an outlier, and remembers white peers giving him what they thought were compliments, saying he wasn’t “like the other black kids.” Like many modern outcasts, he found solace forging a persona on the internet, rapping over YouTube instrumentals and uploading them to MySpace when he was 11. He ran away at 15, lived with a friend’s family for a year, and found his way to Georgia to stay with his older sister, before eventually moving back to Texas and falling in with a crew of like-minded music nerds.
His new album ‘American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story’ is out TODAY! Prior to the release of the LP, Abstract tweeted ‘i need everyone to listen to mellon collie and the infinite sadness before american boyfriend comes out tomorrow night, please’. The Smashing Pumpkins album is one of the most important and artistically ambitious albums of the ’90s, and an album of which Abstract (real name Ian Simpson) would have grew up with.
American Boyfriend feels like something of a salute to Ocean, not just in its glittering sound, but in lyrics which are messily confessional. The words center on his high school years living on the outskirts of a mostly white Texas suburb and the first boy he ever fell in love with, a college student he met in New York last year. “Showed me obscure bands he was into/ His mom in the dining room/ We’re in the bedroom,” he sings on “Seventeen.” “Football pads become a memory/ He changed me for the better.”
The album is executive produced by Frank Ocean-collaborator Michael Uzowuru, who first connected with Abstract on Twitter. Abstract says they don’t talk about Ocean much, but Uzowuru brings a gravity to American Boyfriend that’s reminiscent of Ocean, all sentimental strings and melodramatic choirs.