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CULTURE

Brockhampton Ends: The Boy Band’s History, Break-Up and Final Album

Photo courtesy of Lucas Creighton 

Hip-hop boy band Brockhampton has officially broken up. After nine albums, six years of music creation and over a decade of friendship, the band has decided to go their separate ways, using the release of their latest projects to shed light into their tumultuous relationship, their history and what led to their final farewell. 

The reasons for their break-up have been kept under wraps, but after releasing two albums in two days, “The Family” on Thursday, Nov. 17 and their final album, “TM,” on Friday, Nov. 18, the band’s lyrics painted a picture of the kind of unhealthy relationships members Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Bearface, Joba, Merlyn, Jabari, Dom and Romil were creating. 

“The Family” was promoted to be the band’s final album. With singles like “The Ending,” the finality of the band’s legacy started to really take shape. The album, which was released on a Thursday morning, didn’t feature any other members of Brockhampton other than Abstract and a short appearance from Bearface, something that led fans on the Internet to speculate that there was indeed one more album coming out after “The Family,” similar to how Frank Ocean released his fake-out album “Endless” before releasing “Blonde.” 

Speculation that the band was simply trying to get out of their record deal was met with answers on the band’s Instagram, with a post that promoted “The Family” while also, in tiny text placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the post, saying “surprise album (TM) midnight local.” 

The real final Brockhampton album, “TM,” was finally released on Friday morning. The album has already been met with glowing reviews and ultimately feels like a culmination of all the sounds Brockhampton adopted and created over the years. Pop, rap, hip-hop and 90s boy band charm are all present in “TM,” creating a musical experience that feels like a natural progression of the band’s ability to make music.  

“The Family” and “TM” focus on the relationships between the band members themselves. Both albums discuss the band’s growing disparity and tension. Whether it was the alcoholic tendencies Abstract reveals he had, the bitterness between Jabari and Abstract after kicking Ameer Vaan out of the band due to his revealed sexual assaults perpetrated on multiple women, the unhealthy competition between band members, or other interpersonal issues, Brockhampton fell apart, and they knew they all had to go their separate ways, making the final song on the album, “GOODBYE,” a fitting name for the end of an era. 

Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett

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“TM” album cover, courtesy of Brockhampton

Although the band made music together for six years, their friendship began about 13-years ago. When Abstract was 13-years-old, he joined a Kanye West online forum. Being a fan of his music, he got to know like-minded fans, sharing music and stories about their dreams and what they wanted to pursue in the future. 

“I checked KanyeLive the way I check Twitter now,” Abstract told GQ Magazine. “Every day, all day, I’d be in school checking it. It’s how I found new music. It’s how I learned how to talk, in a way.”

At the time, everyone in the forum lived all around the world. Abstract knew that he wanted to create a boy band, but doing so would be difficult. So, he decided to let everyone know that if they were interested in starting a band, they would have to drop everything and move to Texas. 

During this time, the band released their first full-length album, “ALL AMERICAN TRASH.” After garnering some attention from their first release, the band moved to South Central. This was the first time most of the band members lived in the same house together. Creatively, this was when Brockhampton produced the most music, and it was the birthplace of the “SATURATION” series. 

The “SATURATION” series was well known for its chaotic sounds and high energy. Songs like “BOOGIE” and “HEAT” are what brought the band to the forefront of the new wave of hip-hop. It was a controlled chaos, punchy beats and dark lyrics created an image of what Brockhampton was: a group of young men from different backgrounds coming together to make music that reflected their mental state. The self-proclaimed “best boy band since One-Direction” found a sound that started gaining popularity quickly.

The band created three albums in six months, the first “SATURATION” album being made in three weeks. Their success from the series caught the attention of multiple record labels, leading them to sign their first record deal with RCA for $15 million. It was the first real taste of financial success the band had, but this success was cut short by controversy. 

Band member Ameer Vaan, the face of all three “SATURATION” albums, was accused of sexual assault by multiple women in 2018, something that he denied, but eventually admitted to doing. After kicking Vaan out of the band, morale was severely impacted and the trajectory of their fifth album changed entirely. 

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Although no stranger to softer tones like that of “BLEACH” in “SATURATION III,” their fifth album, titled “Iridescence,” reflected the sadness, pain and betrayal the group felt as a direct result of Vaan’s actions. 

Unlike the energy found in “HEAT,” their first lead single for their upcoming album was “TONYA,” a slow piano ballad that found the band openly talking about their fears, insecurities, vices and the situation with Vaan. It was a sharp change of pace that marked the new direction the band was headed. The metallic, often jumbled production found in “Iridescence” felt like an embodiment of the band’s confusion, and a musical stepping stone into their 2019 album, “GINGER.” 

The sounds of “GINGER” were far more subdued compared to even “Iridescence.” Plucky guitar strings, somber pianos and haunting vocal effects are what defined the 2019 album. More lyrics about Vaan’s controversy and the band member’s personal lives were divulged, but even with all the melancholic sounds, the band started to shift to a more traditional boy band pop sound, like in “SUGAR,” a song that eventually became their most popular release ever. 

Bearface (left) and Merlyn (right), from “SUGAR” music video

After the critical success of “GINGER,” the band took a two year break, disrupting their traditional yearly album release. It was during this time the band started making their next album, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE.” 

The album was a blend of the sounds from their work thus far. Promotional material for the album took a very 1990s hip-hop inspired aesthetic, with bright colors, cam-corder video styles and music reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest and Backstreet Boys. While the music itself strayed away from the sad musicality found in their previous albums, lyrically, band member Joba opened up about his father’s suicide, a topic that lingers throughout the record in songs like “THE LIGHT,” “DEAR LORD” and “THE LIGHT PT. II.”

“The light is worth the wait,” Joba sings in “THE LIGHT PT. II.” “I promise, wait, why did you do it? The light is worth the wait. I promise, wait, screaming ‘please don’t do it.’” 

Once again being welcomed with critical acclaim, Brockhampton continued their musical streak with seeming ease, making music that appealed to both critics and listeners alike, but behind the scenes, the band was struggling to stay together, and shortly after their “ROADRUNNER” release in 2021, Brockhampton announced that they were officially breaking up, leaving fans with the two albums that have just been released. 

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“The Family” and “TM” are available on all music streaming platforms.

Copy edited by Jaydn Barnett

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