BROCKHAMPTON, the 13-member boy band that broke up early this year, returned with what is presumably their last project, The Family, a 17-track album at just 35 minutes.
While their declared hiatus was labeled indefinite, there was still the promise that the group would continue to release music in their solo narratives, but less so as a group.
Kevin Abstract, one of the lead singers and rappers, went to Twitter to tease the album, with an initial stir. Fans were buzzing to know what to expect next — especially since the last communicated message from BROCKHAMPTON was that they’d be canceling all concerts and appearances as a group after their Coachella show this past April.
BROCKHAMPTON released “Big Pussy” and “The Ending” prior to the album’s release. Both tracks feature only Abstract’s vocals, which is surprising compared to the group’s usual collaborative approach.
Abstract reminisces on the early days of BROCKHAMPTON and grimaces through the more sour parts on samples by Smoothe Da Hustler and Willie Hutch. There’s still the classic collage of sounds that somehow still compliment each other, but fans were missing the collective ensemble approach from all members.
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It’s a shocking, and frankly alarming, twist but Abstract is known for breaking the fourth wall and telling it how it is. If you follow him on Twitter, you know he is an open book and will tell all — sometimes plainly and sometimes cryptically.
And the album mostly follows this idea. Abstract narrates the majority of the album with an occasional interjection from Ciarán McDonald, also known as bearface, who produced The Family.
The album swims through nostalgic samples as Abstract is continuously reminding us “BROCKHAMPTON is over.” And it sounds like this decision was made with a heavy heart.
“Bitch, them was the good times,” he repeats in “Good Time.”
The album doesn’t groove the way BROCKHAMPTON’s discography usually does — it sounds like a bittersweet eulogy in a mixtape.
Abstract uses an asymmetrical flow like usual, but there’s no balance from the rest of the band’s influence. We only catch very small snippets of the band’s vocals very rarely, almost like a ghost of them trying to exist in this reality — but they never really fully return.
But they exist fully as Abstract lists them in the final track “Brockhampton,” one by one.
“I miss the band already,” he reminisces.
It’s the most beautiful and bittersweet track on the album, as orchestral strings loop, he very plainly talks about BROCKHAMPTON drama — all of it. From how their relationships were tested during their album processes to even social drama that caught the fans’ attention, specifically the removal of Ameer Van, a previous member who had abuse allegations against him.
But Abstract turns it back to how hopeful he is for himself and his friends as they now pursue their solo careers. It seems like we’re witnessing this realization from him as each word pours out of him.
“The show’s over, get out your seats!” BROCKHAMPTON is over. The Family ends with a sample that sounds just like the end credits of a movie, the curtains come down and we have no choice but to move on.
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The album isn’t particularly good for new fans at all. It’s really for people who have followed the group since the beginning — it’s seriously sad.
It’s admirable, and it has always been this way, how honest the group portrays themselves in their music. No secrets, it’s all right there in the print.
The Family is BROCKHAMPTON’s way of wrapping up their project firmly, no questions asked. It doesn’t seem like music for new fans but a goodbye to old ones. It’s a personal project that isn’t looking for criticism but just a heartfelt reflection of what once was.
But The Family wasn’t the complete and total end. The group released TM the following day, another album with 11 songs, just over half an hour. It sounds much more like the rest of their discography, a much more satisfying end to the group.
TM has a classic BROCKHAMPTON sound that was certainly missed. The swing between intense rap that grooves heavy with an aggressive style and ambient mall music with gentle ballad singing, with the occasional auto-tune, is the true signature sound that the band sends us off with.
Even the tracklist returns to its traditional uppercase presentation, as The Family threw us for a loop by not having its tracklist in all uppercase letters like the rest of their discography.
BROCKHAMPTON sends us off with “GOODBYE” as the track glimmers charmingly, with a warm farewell. And paired with the previous album, it’s touching yet just a tad painful. The group is content with how they’ll part, and together we’ll reach this acceptance.