THE END OF THE BROCKHAMPTON STORY
After years of being a fan of the boyband, I’ve learned that BROCKHAMPTON is too chaotic in nature with everything they do to have concrete expectations for them. I mean, they defy expectations by referring to themselves as a boyband when a) they look like a normal, diverse friend group from any random town instead of having super model image you typically associate with boybands and b) they make rowdy hip-hop and rap instead of the hyper manufactured pop you associate with boybands. They caught everybody off guard with the quickly made and released “SATURATION” only to catch everyone off guard again when they quickly made and released “SATURATION II” and “SATURATION III” within a six month time span. You would assume that there would be an issue of quality considering they were young artists making a lot of music in a short amount of time, but somehow, “THE SATURATION TRILOGY” wasn’t just good, it was consistently great. Three albums worth of fun, hard hitting, and high energy bangers that showed immense versatility and skill from the vocalists and producers mixed with some personal cuts that touched on many emotional themes, including topics that weren’t often addressed in popular music such as being queer, rape culture, and mental illness - it was a perfect recipe to build a cult like fanbase that connected with their outsider nature. After building so much hype among music listeners, critics, and even their idols, as well as a fifty million dollar record deal from RCA, it really felt like BROCKHAMPTON was the next group to blow up.
But, like they’re highly anticipated major label debut “PUPPY”, that did not happen.
The accusations of abuse caused by now ex-member Ameer Vann opened the floodgates for numerous obstacles that BROCKHAMPTON seemingly could not get past. There were many fans who out of the gate thought Ameer shouldn’t have been kicked out and/or the group lost a fundamental part of what them work without him. There were numerous albums that were announced or planned and then scrapped, and the records that were released divided fans and critics. I’ve long stood by their eventual major label debut “iridescence” as my favorite record from the group, but the reasons I love that record - their experimental approach to the project and how raw it is in sound, emotion, and lyrics - are the same reasons that turn fans off that project. “GINGER” saw their most exposure yet with the viral track “SUGAR”, but its more somber, and moody nature turned off fans who wanted classic BROCKHAMPTON bangers. After a long wait between announcement and release, the longest wait yet between BROCKHAMPTON albums, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” was met with the most praise they’ve received since “THE SATURATION TRILOGY” for its great blend of the more mature, emotional, and experimental elements they had been incorporating with the rowdy, chaotic, and high energy rap cuts they were known for in the beginning. However, with a lack of strong promotional campaigns, many people not hearing the album, promises for releases and dates that were never fulfilled, covid taking over the world, the Ameer backlash still being strong, and the reception of the last two records, it felt like it was too little too late. There was the announcement of one more BROCKHAMPTON album at the end of 2021 that was delayed and a tour in 2022, but both were eventually scrapped with the announcement that their performances at Coachella that year, BROCKHAMPTON would go their separate ways and the band would be broken up. No more new music, a group of friends that could no longer function together, broken down by the world around them and their own personal issues - The BROCKHAMPTON story was over, unresolved.
Which makes this review of the latest BROCKHAMPTON album a little weird.
Yeah, after months of insisting they would cease all activity together after Coachella, the boys announced at the end of their last performance together that there WAS going to be one more, final album. And sure enough, after months of silence and many speculating that this project wasn’t going to actually happen, it’s finally here. I had no idea what I was getting into before this dropped. Obviously there’s been the various changes in direction over the years, the record was only thirty five minutes long despite being seventeen tracks, barely any members seemed to be promoting it besides frontman and creative director Kevin Abstract, it’s the first BROCKHAMPTON album to be executively produced by member Bearface and nonmember BOYLIFE and not Kevin or frequent producer Romil Hemnani. Was this rushed, was it just to get them out of their contract, do they still have chemistry together, are any of them even invested in this, is it going to completely suck?! While I do trust the boys - I like almost everything they’ve put out - I can’t say I, and many others, weren’t concerned. But, we’re finally here on release day - how did “THE FAMILY”, the last BROCKHAMPTON album, turn out?
Okay, so first things first, musically, “THE FAMILY'' is basically a Kevin Abstract album. Bearface does contribute on production and he has brief vocal snippets throughout, plus there are some samples of the group interacting living out their daily life, but that’s basically it. The boyband’s last album doesn’t even have the rest of the boyband on it. This is probably going to be disappointing to a lot of fans, it certainly was for me. Part of what was unique and special about this group was how this group of friends played off of each other, bouncing from vocalist to vocalist. Focusing on one member, especially when it’s the last BROCKHAMPTON album ever, feels like an incredibly disappointing end for a group that’s constantly referred to as a family. This definitely isn’t the ending we all envisioned. And…that’s kind of the point.
Even if Kevin is the only featured vocalist, “THE FAMILY” is a BROCKHAMPTON through. Specifically this is the story of BROCKHAMPTON, told through its founding member. Over the course of seventeen tracks that bleed into one another, Kevin recounts the highs and lows of BROCKHAMPTON and why the group inevitably fell apart. The story is told through an aesthetic of flipped soul and jazz samples, which not only calls back to the group’s formation through a Kanye West online forum but makes the whole album sound nostalgic and deeply emotional. While I think the real star of the show is the lyricism and emotion throughout, I definitely want to highlight how fantastic the production is. Creative sample flips, solid mixes throughout, blending bangers with experimentation, emotionally gut punching musicality - it feels like a soundtrack overview of BROCKHAMPTON’s career throughout each album.
This soundtrack brings out the emotion as nostalgia Kevin goes through thinking about the band, as he explores each factor that led to the group’s demise. But even if the story is told from Kevin’s perspective, this isn’t a heavily biased narrative where Kevin points blame nor a manipulative pity party. Kevin goes deep into every complex and contradictory emotion, and paints a picture of what happened that is quite honest and neutral, not leaning into drama or saying what or whose fault it was. Some tracks Kevin is excited for the future and feels like he’s breaking free, sometimes he’s deeply remorseful about what happened and wants the boys to get back together. Sometimes he’s proud of all they accomplished, other times he views fame as what led to the group’s demise. He also doesn’t paint a nice picture of himself, frequently bringing up his mistakes, developing an ego, turning to abusive substances, acknowledging the ways he hurt his friends, saying he turned his friendships into a business, even flat out saying his behavior was toxic, admitting that he was exploiting his friendships when he would film personal conversations with friends to turn into art. I also think that the choice to have the record be a solo album is meant to symbolize how isolated and lonely Kevin feels now that the band is over.
There’s not a Hollywood style ending for BROCKHAMPTON on “THE FAMILY”. There’s no definitive perspective picked, it's not a happy or sad or bitter ending, there’s no final group team up Avengers style or a verse from Ameer or Kanye, the band’s hero. Really, the note that Kevin lands on isn’t about having the perfect ending, it’s about closure. Kevin still views BROCKHAMPTON as a family, and he’s clearly proud of all they accomplished, but the band just wasn’t working anymore. While he says he misses the band and thinks of everyone as friends, he also acknowledges the band as a business was a toxic relationship, saying it outright on “Anyway You Want Me”. This wasn’t about the ending the band or the fans wanted, this was about finding peace, saying everything that needed to be said so you’re able to move on. Kevin wishes the band the best, says they’ll always be a family even if they aren’t a band, and then the curtain falls.
This may not be the ending that BROCKHAMPTON or their fans wanted. But it’s the ending that’s the most honest. We all want stories to go on forever, and if they have to end we want one last hurrah and to go out with a bang. But that’s not how stories often go. Mostly, friendships don’t end at a specific plot point or event, you just drift apart. No friendship is 100% positive or negative, it has ups and downs. You’ll still love each other, keep in touch from time to time, and think fondly of the past with rose tinted glasses, but there’s a reason friendships often drift apart, you’re all in different places now, places you needed to be. Eventually, everything ends, whether it be the ending you envisioned or not, and you have to find peace with that ending to find closure and move on to be where you need to be. Kevin may be on his own, but he’s beginning the next chapter in his life, as well as every other member. What could have been just a quick cash in to fulfill an album contract turned into a study and reflection on friendships, endings, and how connections last forever even if you aren’t in each others’ lives anymore, and that’s the honest ending that BROCKHAMPTON deserves. BROCKHAMPTON may be over, but “THE FAMILY” will always have each other. And with that, we close the last chapter of the BROCKHAMPTON story - I miss the band already.
What the fuck is a “T M”?
THE END OF THE BROCKHAMPTON STORY PART 2: https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/baddiebaphomet/album/571824-tm/