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Brockhampton says goodbye with two albums: Emotional hip-hop roller coaster ride

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Producing seven albums in five years is a feat even for very ambitious musicians. 13 boys from San Marcos, Texas, did it under the name Brockhampton – and thus set their own monument.

The record “The Family”, announced only three weeks beforehand, should be the last statement for the time being from the hip-hop group, which describes itself as “the best boy band since One Direction”. But Brockhampton had other irons in the fire.

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Even before “The Family” was unusually released last Thursday (the standard release day in the music industry is Friday at 12:01 a.m. local time), the rumor mill was churning on Reddit. Leaked song credits revealed that frontman Kevin Abstract is the lead writer on all tracks.

The two single releases “Big Pussy” and “The Ending” were also abstract solo tracks. Breaking a taboo for the band, famous for their round-robin style, with multiple members rapping on almost every song. In order to be able to classify the further drama, it is worth taking a short look back at the band’s history.

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Brockhampton’s rise was as meteoric as its fall. In 2010, Abstract, then 14, posted to an online forum for Kanye West fans to look for members for a band. An EP with four songs, “something towards the 70s and Jimi Hendrix” was the goal.

With the initially 30-strong crew, they finally found themselves in hip-hop. Gradually the group shrank to 13 members, seven of whom also rap themselves. The other six are busy with the album production, video shoots and the web presence of the collective, among other things.

So that the entire output of the band was not only theoretically but also practically completely united under one roof, the then 15 hip-hop disciples moved from Texas to a common house in Los Angeles in 2016.

The risky move should pay off, because shortly afterwards the most productive creative period of the clique, which always saw itself as one big family, began. Brockhampton produced no fewer than five albums in their “Factory” over the next three years.

Album cover of “The Family”
© Question Everything/RCA Records

The so-called “Saturation” trilogy was released in 2017 and turned out to be an ambivalent affair: the band did make their breakthrough with the albums. But at the same time, a crisis began when co-frontman Ameer Vann was accused of sexual abuse and he was expelled from the group shortly thereafter.

But Brockhampton survived this phase, continued to develop and even reached number 1 on the Billboard charts with the post-Vann album “Irisdescence” in 2018. With “Gingers” (2019) and Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine (2021) were two records that evoked mixed feelings among many listeners.

Creative differences, burgeoning solo careers and, last but not least, fan desire for a return to the “Saturation” style led the 13 band members to announce their “indefinite hiatus” in January.

But before that there should be some music. So now “The Family”, which, as feared, turns out to be a quasi-solo album by Kevin Abstract. Abstract probably knew that the 35 half-heartedly produced minutes full of chipmunk choirs in the style of Kanye West’s maximum times were not quite appropriate for the occasion.

Just in time for the album release, a promo poster was released showing a surprise album entitled “TM” promised for the following day. Abstract was inspired by Frank Ocean. He first released “Endless” in 2016 to fulfill his contractual obligations, and a day later the now legendary “Blonde”..

Album cover of “TM”

Unfortunately, none of the two albums is enough for Ocean’s ingenious excesses, but taken together there is still a lot that you can listen to well and with pleasure. From “The Family” especially the two singles are remembered. In “Big Pussy” a chaotic free jazz intro is followed by a pounding bassline, which is only surpassed by Kevin Abstract’s bombastic, aggressive verses.

The target of his tirades are the fans and the label RCA, which had demanded at least 35 minutes of music. The album is now 24 seconds over. As the penultimate piece, “The Ending” seems like a melancholic swan song that Abstract babbles over a perfectly cultivated soul sample.

That “TM” Brockhampton’s “real” final album is something that fans can already tell by the way it looks. In contrast to “The Family”, all song titles are written in upper case as usual. In the final sprint, the Texans once again prove their versatility.

The album consists of eleven tracks from the pandemic period, some of which have been slightly reworked and some of which have been completely revised. “New Shoes” exudes the spirit of 2017 the most, the song is bursting with juvenile energy. In Double-Time, Kevin, Matt, Merlyn, Jabari and Dom show that the boy band might as well have a comeback.

At almost two minutes long, “Keep It Southern” is probably the most condensed top hit on the album. In addition to some of Abstract’s best lines, his eccentric bandmate Merlyn Wood once again has his say and knocks out even the last doubters with his boxing metaphors. In the chorus of “Man On The Moon” it’s abstract again, which almost creates a dance track with the usual chameleon-like versatility.

Unfortunately, the second half of the album is a little less energetic and only convinces again towards the end with the emotional impact of the approaching farewell. With “Goodbye” it really means for the boys from the Woodlands. Joba and Matt Champion reminisce about the ‘best time of their lives’.

Then one last sample takes over: the distorted voice of the recently deceased Q Lazzarus begins their biggest hit of the 80s. Through her tribute, she also utters Brockhampton’s last words: “Goodbye horses, I’m flying over you.”

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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