The show is over, everyone get out of your seats and go home. The long-awaited conclusion to the Brockhampton story has finally reached fans this month, with the release of their final studio albums, “The Family” and “TM.”
The story of Brockhampton is a short one, laminated in success, talent and inspiration, but also mired with conflict, tension and disappointment. The band got together as early as 2010, when most of them met on an online music forum and decided to join forces to become “the greatest boy band since One Direction.”
They burst onto the popular music scene in 2017 when they released the first album of what is now known as the Saturation Trilogy: an explosive and raw collection of hip hop tracks they made in a house in Texas they all rented together. With over seven MC’s and several producers, they exhibited a wide range of talent and variety in their music.
Little did we know that would be the golden-age of Brockhampton because, shortly after, things began to fall apart. Allegations came out about several of the band members being in toxic relationships, but the most damning of them was centered on one of their MC’s, Ameer Vann, who had reportedly engaged in sexual misconduct and he subsequently left the group.
After a record deal with RCA records, their following albums “Iridescence,” “Ginger” and “Roadrunner” were excellent, but lacked the uniformity and camaraderie of their previous releases and left everyone, especially fans, underwhelmed. Eventually, after the release of “Roadrunner,” the band announced they would put out one final record and call it quits.
“The Family” was released on Nov. 17 amid a hailstorm of confusing information on Twitter. Within 24 hours of the album’s release, the band revealed that they were dropping another album the following day and they were hosting a free farewell concert that night in Los Angeles on a first-come first-served basis.
Released back-to-back, “The Family” (TF) and “TM” have polarized Brockhampton fans. While “TF” was claimed by Kevin Abstract, an MC and the band’s unofficial spokesperson, on Twitter to be “35 minutes of music to satisfy the record label,” it sounds full of effort and charisma, primarily from Abstract himself, who is known for heavily narrative-focused solo albums. Meanwhile, “TM” is claimed to be the final group album, but lacks that same charisma and catharsis. Both albums come in at around 35 minutes, with 17 and 11 tracks respectively.
“TF” is primarily produced by Brockhmapton’s long-time heartthrob, Ciaran McDonald or “Bearface,” and includes him on vocals, but features Abstract as the prominent MC. A large amount of complaints about “TF” have centered around the lack of vocal variety people have come to expect on Brockhampton albums.
But it’s that solo voice of Abstract that I think lends “TF” its strength. The band is falling apart, they don’t want to do it anymore, and it makes sense for the loudest voice of the band to take the mantle of saying goodbye. And if any listener is familiar with Abstract’s solo career, “TF” is right on brand with his previous work, method of communication and honestly, the solo album I wish “Arizona Baby” had been.
“TM” on the other hand is produced by MC Matt Champion, and consists mostly of unreleased demos and shelved songs. While “TM” features some experimental production and some trademark lyrics and flows, a lot of it sounds from the post-Ameer era and lacks bite. Most of the tracks, like “BETTER THINGS” and “ALWAYS SOMETHING,” lean less into thematic or narrative components and delve into textural elements. Smooth lo-fi style synths pad MC Joba and Jabari’s voices, and they feel sentimental and conclusive, but leave me wanting more.
“TM” has the feigned cohesiveness of including the entire band, but both the celebratory and lamentful songs fall a little flat for me and don’t play as big a role in telling the narrative arc of the band as “TF” does. “TF’s” final track when compared to “TM’s” feels much more involved and passionate. I don’t understand the argument that “TF” feels lazy and thrown together, when “TM”’s synths, instrumentals and just lack of charisma scream low effort. The cohesion between the band mates is no longer there and the passion slipped out the door with it.
A lot of BROCKHAMPTON fans over the last few years have been turned off by the band’s melancholic turn; on online message boards I keep reading the same thing: “wHY BaNd Be So Sad? No MOre SaD, Me WANt BanGeRs” which frustrates me to no end, because as early as their first albums, the boys excelled at being joyful and sorrowful. “TM” doesn’t need more bangers, I just wish it was more compelling.
While fans might be mourning the end of BROCKHAMPTON, the band has left hours of music for the internet age to return to, and their legacy rivals some of the other great hip hop boy bands, like Odd Future and Wu-Tang Clan. But now? “It’s solo time.”