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Review: ‘The Family’ and ‘TM’ by Brockhampton

It’s the end of an era from the ingenious band.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

“The Family” and “TM,” the newest (and supposedly final) albums by the Los Angeles-based, Texas-founded rap group, Brockhampton, cemented the band’s profound musical legacy and demonstrated their restless spirit of innovation.

Seven rappers, including Kevin Abstract, write Brockhampton’s music, but the band also considers their band manager, artistic director, creative director, videographer, photographer, graphic designer and all of their producers as members of the collective. After nine albums, Brockhampton’s adaptable and inclusive approach scored devoted fans across the globe.

Brockhampton released “The Family” and “TM” on Nov. 18 and have said these two LPs will be the group’s final work. Their final albums illustrate Brockhampton’s influence on mainstream rap by continuing the band’s mix of distinct identities and catchy tracks.

The first of two final albums from Brockhampton, “The Family,” plays as a bittersweet apology from Abstract to the rest of the band. In contrast, Brockhampton’s last album, “TM,” features performances from the seven other vocalists of the group.

“The Family” is a culmination of honesty, irony and vulnerability on the part of Abstract. After recording the album “TM” in late 2021, the band decided to part ways. To allow everyone in the band out of their contract with RCA, Abstract made “The Family” as an explanation to fans and an apology to his longtime bandmates.

In the song “All That,” Abstract admits the spotlight occasionally wrecked his own integrity. “I shoulda went to therapy instead / I started to heal, that’s what we all needed / The record deal wasn’t helpin’ either / That merch deal ain’t help either, man / It gave me more money for alcohol / I guess blowin’ up ain’t all that at all,” Abstract raps.

“All That” showcases Brockhampton’s appeal. Abstract’s lyricism across all nine of the band’s albums normalized queerness and brought forth honest ruminations on mental health, relatively rare topics for chart-topping rap acts.

The beats on “The Family” are some of the best from Brockhampton’s career. Ciarán McDonald can take credit for a lot of the excellent production. McDonald usually sings and raps in Brockhampton, but he worked extensively on production throughout “The Family.” Tracks like “The Ending,” which boasts a soulful jazz element, flaunt McDonald’s immaculate ear. The song plays as an intimate confession of Abstract’s thoughts over what sounds like a live jazz band.

Rather than melancholy reminiscences of fame, “TM” conveys the victorious spirit of a band that has made nine albums in the past seven years.

An interesting development for Brockhampton on “TM,” is the addition of Jabari Manwa’s vocal performances. Manwa previously worked as one of Brockhampton’s producers and is the co-founder with Kevin Abstract. On their final album, “TM,” Manwa’s unique style of vocals and rapping are highlighted on the best tracks.

In the song, “DUCT TAPE,” Manwa offers a smooth autotuned verse that adds to the entire hazy atmosphere of the song. “DUCT TAPE” sounds similar in its sonic tone to the rest of the album and delivers a bittersweet mediation on the process of fame.

The track begins with Manwa opening up about his journey as an immigrant from Grenada. “2001’s the year, I remember I could never breathe / My mama left, she had no choice but to go overseas / I held the baggage with me / All the things she couldn’t keep,” Manwa raps.

One fault is the absence of narrative throughout “TM,” and especially on songs like, “GOODBYE,” which will disappoint longtime fans.

Regardless, songs on “TM” like “NEW SHOES” prove Brockhampton can still blend their disparate vocal styles into lyrically clever raps.

Brockhampton’s final two albums, “TM” and “The Family,” display even after nine albums, multiple lineup changes and group strife, the tireless creative energy behind the self-proclaimed boyband still shines.

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  • NotaSingleChance
    Dec 10, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    I thought this was a anime. Lol