Released November 17, 2022 via RCA Records / Question Everything
Reviewed December 5, 2022
Top tracks (based on community voting)
Brockhampton (48%), Big Pussy (42%), The Ending (40%)
BROCKHAMPTON’s indefinite hiatus is officially here. First announced in January, and marked by their Coachella performance in April that saw them sporting jackets with “All Good Things Must Come to an End” stitched on them, The Family is the capstone to an unforgettable run. Twelve years in all, but best characterized by a five-year run that began in 2017, “America’s favorite boyband” couldn’t be the favorite forever.
Kevin Abstract had always held the unofficial title of being the group’s leader, and that position has never been clearer than on The Family. Recounting BROCKHAMPTON’s journey over the past few years, Abstract is the lone member featured on the band’s swan song.
Bearface and boylife handle the production of The Family, shaping the first (and last) BH record to dive into the sounds of chipmunk soul. With no beats from the usuals—Romil, Jabari, Kiki, or even JOBA—it never quite feels like a BROCKHAMPTON record, but there is still some beauty to be found in the bittersweet sounds put forth.
Kevin Abstract meets the soul samples where they are, torn between celebratory and regretful. He insists the bonds created between the members will never be broken, but openly displays the growing strains that have come between them. After taking pride in the group’s accomplishments for much of the first half, the second half shifts toward a much more introspective outlook. Acknowledging his shortcomings as a leader, a friend, and how they intertwined with the complications that come alongside a certain level of fame, Abstract pens a heartfelt farewell to his bandmates. – Dominick (7.5/10)
In discussing The Family, fellow band-member JOBA recalls someone declaring the album a “documentary,” and, in many ways, I agree. In a tight thirty-five minutes we are told the recent history of the band, amidst a break-up and the causal, complicated interpersonal cogs that inevitably became rusty from label-induced burnout. Many have grieved The Family as a non-album within the BROCKHAMPTON canon for it only features Kevin Abstract (with Ciaran, FKA bearface, on beats), but I must retort that, at least lyrically, it is about nothing but the boyband. The public & private paratext of this record leading up to its creation—some of which leaks into the text itself—affords Kevin’s sole perspective, implying that it’s more for the rest of the group than anyone else. It sure does provide fans some closure to their abrupt and nebulous announcement of their end at the beginning of the year, but its execution is a little half-hearted in places.
During the SATURATION era, I never would’ve anticipated “RZA” from BROCKHAMPTON, contorting Dilla-esque chipmunk-soul samples, spirited shooting stars soaring above. It’s an exciting, classic style that The Family often pays a novel homage to without entirely co-opting it as a vehicle, an excuse, to impart the band’s ending. “Big Pussy” does this well, too, with eclectic samples and Kevin’s incredible chameleonic vocal range, most impressively without any modification in post, which is normally an Abstract staple.
It’s those moments where The Family clearly aims to pad out its already short runtime with a haphazard simplicity that ultimately hurts it. “Any Way You Want Me” and the “Prayer” interlude are quickly followed up by “My American Life,” but they never feel “meta” enough to employ such a casual approach, so it really comes across as if Kevin & Ciaran are just messing around in the studio without forethought. I guess that naturalism lends to the “documentary” aesthetic, but various BROCKHAMPTON songs have balanced conciseness and depth on pressing and personal issues many times before. – Cam (6.8/10)
Dominick: 7.5/10 | Cam: 6.8/10 | DeVán: 6.5/10 | Alan: 6/10
BROCKHAMPTON’s founder Kevin Abstract puts the band on his back for this breakneck collage of splattering ideas. His singing and rapping are as bold as you could ever ask for, and his fearlessness towards the creative process continues to make him one of the most talented artists of our time. This album feels like the captain going down with his ship in a blazing inferno. A truly bombastic and emotional goodbye. – @jake__cp (9/10)
BROCKHAMPTON’s sound has always been ever-changing, and The Family is no exception, veering into unique territory in the band’s catalog with production that pays homage to the music that brought the band together. Kevin Abstract is the only primary vocalist on the whole project, which might seem strange from the once tight-knit collective, however it becomes abundantly clear that this is for the fans. It’s candid, vulnerable, and provides the closure that the fans have asked for since the band split. – @bruno.7657 (8/10)
Messy and undoubtedly bitter but definitely still worth a listen. Kevin's extremely raw confessions about the downfall of BROCKHAMPTON are fascinating and the production surrounding them make sure the tracks never overstay their welcome and still have appeal to those who aren't hardcore fans. – @andre_vital_pardue (7.7/10)
Released November 18, 2022 via RCA Records / Question Everything
Reviewed December 5, 2022
Top tracks (based on community voting)
NEW SHOES (64%), MAN ON THE MOON (53%), KEEP IT SOUTHERN (33%)
The Memories? The Money? The Mountain? Trademark™? “ToTaLLy MiD!1”? I like to think TM stands for all of these as a way to cap off BROCKHAMPTON’s short but sweet career as a joint unit. Made primarily with the means to escape RCA’s applied pressure, the boyband remaster various deep cuts from their Technical Difficulties Radio sessions (2020), recording some new material to support cohesion. Much like GINGER (2019), this album is unguided by a single idea, allowing them to encompass the many distinct facets of alternative hip-hop that the boys have explored over the last five years. In some ways, TM feels like a successor to iridescence (2018) with its rawer embrace of dark electronica. Vocalist & executive producer Matt Champion aptly described opener “FMG” as "a crunchy hellhole [...] a piece of gum under your shoe," while “ANIMAL” recalls the abstract prelude of “VIVID” and outro of “BERLIN.” The final leg of the record even allows some more organic instrumentation in a similar vein to “TONYA” and “SAN MARCOS.” Yet, they also recall elements of SATURATION (2017), such as refrains echoing through the casual lucidity of “ALWAYS SOMETHING.”
Some ideas are entirely new to them, like extended instrumental breakdowns in two contrasting styles. “MAN ON THE MOON” is consumed by looping, bubbly disco while “CRUCIFY ME” turns into chaotic Free Jazz. TM is an almost satisfying end to the boyband, missing only one more climactic posse cut (extending “DUCT TAPE” to accommodate the rest of the vocalists would even be enough), but it indeed proves that they never needed the ninety-second tangents that have previously plagued them, and that forty minutes is more than enough to divulge upon staple ideas and cover ground that is fresh to them. – Cam (8/10)
A surprise drop of sorts, TM immediately follows The Family, being released just a day after their supposed last album. The Family was dominated almost exclusively by Kevin Abstract, with Bearface being the only other member to provide contributions—which came in the form of production credits and very subtle background vocals. TM is much more of a typical BROCKHAMPTON offering, featuring all the members as they come together for their final go-round.
That being said, the true final album we got from BROCKHAMPTON isn’t all that exciting. With more collaboration present on the production side, the beats of TM are significantly more eclectic than those on The Family. Some tracks are big and booming, others light and mellow as they bounce from trap-inspired sounds to alt. R&B to synth-pop. TM shows off the kind of genre shapeshifting that made them so appealing at their best, but it also scrapes together a collection of sounds that we’ve mostly already heard from the group.
Similarly, TM lacks in its standout verses as much as it does any real notable instrumentals. There are enough voices on here to make the transitions from one verse to the next still enjoyable, but TM never quite delivers on giving its listeners any sort of substance. And given the context of this as their final record, the worst thing it could have been is inconsequential. It never bears the weight of a farewell record, nor does it have much direction beyond that. It some values as a snapshot of the various sounds they’ve experimented with over the years, but that value is greatly diminished by how watered-down and uninspired it feels.
The run they had was great, but if these are anything other than b-sides/leftovers from previous album sessions, TM is evidence of just how exhausting the past few years have been for BROCKHAMPTON. – Dominick (6/10)
Cam: 8/10 | Alan: 7/10 | DeVán: 6/10 | Dominick: 6/10
Releasing three albums in around half a year was the catalyst for BROCKHAMPTON’s rise to stardom, but none could’ve predicted they’d draw the curtains in similar fashion, releasing two albums on the same day. TM is the opposite of its sister album The Family and brings the group back together for one last hurrah, just in case a solo Kevin album wasn’t your ideal end to BROCKHAMPTON. It’s clear that they don’t have much left to prove to the hip-hop world and it is refreshing to hear them return to form before they go to prove themselves as individual musicians. – @bruno.7657 (7/10)
Soulless. These tracks occasionally have a memorable performance, hook, or beat, but it's all drowned out in this feeling that the chemistry between the members is at an all-time low. Deeply unfulfilling and disappointing. – @andre_vital_pardue (5.1/10)
TM is easily their least engaging since GINGER. It feels as if BH knew these wouldn’t fit within the confidence and colour of the rest of their catalog (hence why these became leftovers in the first place). However, “Crucify Me” comes as a treat with its jazz arrangements and fantastic climax. “New Shoes” also brings a ton of energy, and could’ve started the return to the boyband fun that BH needed. If only things had worked out… – @maxrosk (3/10)