The ability to define the end of an era has been a rare challenge bestowed on the BROCKHAMPTON boys. After the success of their SATURATION album trilogy, the self-titled “best boy band since one direction” signed a deal with RCA records for six albums in three years, with a tumultuous path ahead.
The seventh and (almost) final album The Family serves as a sour ending to the band, however. Only Kevin Abstract features vocally, taking the reins on the 17-track project as a solo effort, co-produced by band member bearface and LA producer BOYLIFE.
As stated on the album’s lead single ‘Big Pussy’, “the label needed 35 minutes of music” and that’s pretty much what this is: a ticked box to close off their deal. Abstract fills the time with a series of fleeting reflections and confessions of the band’s breakdown from his point of view.
He raps over a jarring amount of pitched up soul and gospel samples, laced throughout the project in an attempt at sentimentality, but the incessant repetition brinks on corniness. This sampling technique is a clear influence of the group’s idol Kanye West, and considering the band assembled through a Kanye fanbase forum, this is nostalgic in its own right but delivers more as imitation rather than inspiration.
The album opens with gospel heavy ‘Take It Back’ where Abstract prefaces the impending spilling of beans in this project, “I had to save the truth for the last shit, anything I said before this was passive”, and delves into loose memories of the band’s formation and existential thoughts of meeting again “in another life, somewhere in the skies”.
Again, like some of Kanye West’s output, Abstract’s lyrics are chaotic and contradictory throughout. Next is ‘RZA’ where Abstract compares the break-up of his band with the separation of his parents, repenting for previous songs where he disses his mother, followed by a more mellow ‘Gold Teeth’, with a beat only to be described as the love child of Kanye’s ‘Jesus Walks’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’.
‘Big Pussy’ followed by ‘All That’ are the album’s highlights, the latter sampling TLC vocals and adopting a 90s flow, as Kevin spills the tea on his absence at the 2019 BRITs. The track references Kevin’s relationship to ex-band member Ameer Vann as he confesses, “I missed Ameer so me and Dom kept fightin” and on later track ‘Brockhampton’ that he pissed off the members when he started talking to Ameer again – understandably so, as his departure off the back of sexual abuse allegations catalysed the breakdown of the group.
Notably, Kevin raps of the effects of fame and fortune, with the perks of success simultaneously causing mental instability, tension and his own alcoholism, as he reveals that the deals gave him “more money for alcohol”.
The album is broken up by a painful slog of lack-lustre songs, beginning with the slurred ‘(Back From The) Road’ through to ‘Good Time’, easily fading into background noise. The latter track closes with Abstract revealing his toxic pattern of trying to “turn everything into art” at the expense of authenticity.
These self-aware confessions serve as a double-edged sword as he paints his character as fairly insincere, whilst trying to be earnest. His ego shines through on ‘The Family’, in his arrogant declarations: “I don’t feel guilty for cuttin’ your verse from this beat, I don’t feel guilty for heat you caught from my tweets”. The second half includes a couple of cringe-worthy punts at indie ballads ‘Any Way You Want Me’ and ‘My American Life’, compensated by the poignant outro tracks ‘The Ending’ and ‘Brockhampton’, where he donates a line addressing each member, wishing them the best on their next chapters.
It ends with “the show’s over, get out your seats…it’s solo time”, played out by an inevitable chipmunk sample of Ruby Winter’s ‘I Can’t Fake It Anymore’, rinsing the nostalgia of it all.
For the Brockhampton fans and not-so fans, I would strongly advise giving The Family a miss and instead delving into their back catalogue when they were experimenting in new, more innovative ways, pushing sonic boundaries as a united force. After all, they earned their cult status for a reason.
The Family as a “parting gift” only serves as a disappointment for all involved, but this does soften the blow of the end of an era, which was clearly over long ago. Kevin Abstract’s solo project provides the energy of not accepting that the party’s over. To quote a white woman’s Instagram, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened – and pray for promising products of “solo time” now that the boys are out of this toxic union.