On Nov. 17, hip-hop collective Brockhampton released what fans thought would be their final album, “The Family.” But just an hour after the initial release, the band dropped a second album, “TM,” rounding off their final year together as a group.
The albums came nearly a year after a Jan. 14 announcement from Brockhampton that they would take an “indefinite hiatus” and cancel the remaining shows on their “Here Right Now” tour — making their Coachella 2022 performance the group’s last.
Brockhampton formed in 2010 under the name AliveSinceForever after meeting on “KanyeToThe,” a fan forum for the musician Ye, according to Variety. Fans have since proclaimed the group as the internet’s first boy band, going against the white and straight industry stereotype by including members with diverse racial backgrounds and sexualities.
Brockhampton faced backlash in 2018 when former member Ameer Vann was accused by two women of sexual misconduct, after which he left the group. But despite the band’s controversies, Brockhampton’s 2021 album, “Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine,” found great popular and critical success.
“The Family,” the band’s seventh studio album, comes over a year after its predecessor and documents the band’s history over the course of its 35-minute runtime. The album relies heavily on the vocals of founding member Kevin Abstract and places the rest of the band members in the background. While some long-time fans may be disappointed at how most of the group was sidelined in the album, “The Family” largely benefits from highlighting Abstract’s unique lyricism and sound.
Abstract opens the album with “Take it Back,” a track that reminisces on Brockhampton’s Texas beginnings. In the song, he makes a cheeky reference to the band’s album trilogy of “Saturation,” “Saturation II” and “Saturation III” with the line: “Had to saturate the streets with some classics” — a callback to the band’s humble beginnings that is certain to make any long-time fan excited.
The trilogy made now-classic songs like “BOOGIE,” “BLEACH” and “Summer” an instant favorite among listeners.
The album shines particularly bright on its second track, “RZA,” where Abstract switches from nostalgic remembrance to confronting the reality of Brockhampton’s end. “RZA” describes a conversation between Abstract and his mother where she asks him why he doesn’t “keep the band together.” In the song, Abstract admits that he should be more like RZA — the head of rap group Wu-Tang Clan and one of Abstract’s idols — with the lyrics “I know I gotta be/More like RZA be.”
Most of the album was rap-heavy, but in “Any Way You Want Me,” Abstract slows things down and continues longing for the past, a theme that pervades the album. He reflects on the loss of a friendship through his lyrics: “You’re still my best friend even if I don’t need you/Still my best friend even if I don’t see you.”
While “The Family” serves as a sonic map tracking the rise and fall of the internet’s first boy band, “TM” lacks the same cohesion in its themes. “TM” feels like an afterthought of a release, filled with songs that are not lyrically or musically strong enough to stand alongside the first album’s tracklist. Largely an unexciting listen, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor, “TM" leaves listeners wanting more from Brockhampton’s final album.
The album’s most enjoyable track by far is “LISTERINE,” on which Abstract and fellow bandmates Matt Champion, Jabari Manwa and Dom McLennon provide listeners with some of the freshest beats on the album. Featuring quippy lyrics like “Swish around like its Listerine,” the track sounds like a classic Brockhampton piece and proves that the band is strongest when all of its band members get a chance to shine.
Like “The Family,” “TM” finds a moment of peace in a slower song, with “BETTER THING” balancing out the fast-paced sound Brockhampton is known for. Leading this track, Champion thinks back on his personal losses, this time lost love rather than friendship. But the lyrics suggest a deeper meaning, with “Maybe I’ll find a better thing/Someone that don’t treat me like a fool” applying to both his old flame and his now-former band.
“GOODBYE,” the last song on the album — and supposedly the last ever by Brockhampton — has an upbeat, almost regretful sound. Bandmates JOBA and Champion tell the tale of their friendship, though this time without the regret and longing of earlier songs. “Goodbye Horses” by Q. Lazzarus is interpolated in the outro and referenced in the band’s parting lyrics, “Goodbye horses/I’m flying, flying, flying over you,” which mark a drawn-out but bittersweet conclusion of Brockhampton’s time together.
Kaitlyn Torres is the senior editor of community for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. She previously covered diversity as a University News section editor. In her free time, Kaitlyn enjoys listening to The Arctic Monkeys and going on archaeological digs.