Brockhampton – The Family: Review

Like most boy bands, there comes a time when they have to grow and succeed individually, though not everyone will come out with an established career beyond the group. It’s rare but not impossible. It’s like when people use Beyonce as an anecdote to describe the leader of the group, or rather the one with the most potential to excel; Justin Timberlake was that for N’SYNC, and Kevin Abstract for Brockhampton. Unfortunately, it’s Brockhampton’s time, so as they turn the page on their future, they leave fans with two final albums – The Family sees Kevin Abstract delivering nuanced tracks about their respective journey as bandleader – TM establishes that camaraderie through musicality. However, TM isn’t as strong, sometimes sounding like they are trying to slightly mirror different styles far from themselves and missing the mark occasionally. It tends to feel more like a gimmie, unlike The Family, which is the more concrete project – a personal reflection of new beginnings with weighted emotions about the past. It’s a fantastic sendoff showing Kevin Abstract’s naked vulnerability as he laments about various decisions.

In many ways, Kevin Abstract constructs The Family as this emotionally complex eulogy, reminiscing about the good times and the bad. On “RZA,” Abstract focuses on his failures to maintain consistency despite the separation. Wu-Tang Clan were able to expand and have their solo careers, but when the RZA uses his whistle, they come back and reconvene to deliver more heat. Abstract tells us this isn’t the case with Brockhampton; he opens the door and lets us know how it wasn’t the case for them and the issues that arose. But they are still family, and he reminisces about their past, like on “Gold Teeth,” where he reflects on the early days of Brockhampton making music and striving in Southern Texas. These days, it hasn’t been the case with varying issues and emotions weighing down on the members as they let the problems consume them – some understandably so – but there is this known that we will see them grow and mature as artists as they push forward.

It’s thematically poignant as we hear Kevin Abstract juggling through his emotions to deliver them with grace. We hear about new problems within the familial dynamic brought about by fame and riches, like colliding egos, Abstract branching into solo work as the band promoted their album iridescence, and his overly indulgent artistic direction with music videos, etc. Some of it gets brought up in “All That” and “The Family.” The former sees Abstract trying to lay his perspective, looking at moments and emotionally ever-long feelings that arose from their growth as a band. In it, Abstract raps, “As the checks grew, it became harder to leave/Everybody got an ego now, imagine bein’ me/Competition started off so healthy/’Til one day I looked up like, “Damn, you almost better than me”/I don’t feel guilty for wakin’ you up when you sleep/I don’t feel guilty for cuttin’ your verse from this beat.” It shows us the imbalance caused by egos or Abstract making music again with disgraced ex-member Ameer Vann. Issues arise, and Kevin Abstract takes accountability and offers an emotional apology on “Brockhampton,” the last song on The Family, which beautifully sends us off after a slightly imbalanced album.

The Family is a rich text that keeps most of Kevin Abstract’s words short and sweet but with resounding depth that you get incentivized with great music that you’d want to replay and understand further. It’s through Kevin Abstract’s flows, lyricism, and the production by bandmember bearface and producers boylife and Nick Velez, offering sounds that invoke memories atmospherically. We hear it on “(Back From The) Road” and “All That,” which beautifully samples the theme song to the classic Nickelodeon show of the same name. It brings nuance to the idea that everything that glitters is not gold, as it flips the positivity of the message toward a more pessimist one. There is a consistency to the production, never feeling overly produced and having balance as it boasts the vocal deliveries and lets us genuinely get within the trenches of what has been going on.

Unfortunately, The Family doesn’t have smooth pacing, letting a 17-track, 35-minute album feel more like a 17-minute EP. However, it doesn’t take you away from the raw emotion getting brought out. Brockhampton, or rather Kevin Abstract, lets it show, teetering between what works and what doesn’t, like the singing tracks compared to his more rapping ones. Spinning this left me feeling a lot, especially as I was one of the many who took this journey with them since the first Saturation, and it’s now time for new beginnings.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.


From the plethora of work under BROCKHAMPTON’s repertoire there are some records that teeter the level of quality being put out – based on what they have done through the Saturation trilogy. Their major label releases have been great, and the constant chirping keeps them on a higher pedestal, which is what leads to many lukewarm and underwhelming reception on some of the sonic choices they make. Kevin Abstract, the de facto leader of BROCKHAMPTON, has declared their new album ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE their best, but Iridescence is and this new one feels like it is trying too much to be many things, instrumentally, which fortunately lands on both feet more than not.

ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE starts on a strong note with tracks overtaken by the features and their styles. Opening with “Buzzcut,” featuring Danny Brown, the album leaves an interesting impression with this electric and erratic delivery of both sound and vocal performances from Danny and Kevin Abstract. These tracks, like the rest of the album, adapt themselves to the kind of music that influences them. It’s like when Notorious B.I.G. wanted to make the song “Notorious Thugs,” to prove his versatility in his rhythmic flow, which was more provocative than his usual approach. 

The few features that mount the first few tracks have had their history of erratic and vibrant deliveries, like JPEGMAFIA and ASAP Rocky & Ferg, the former of which brings some of his best flow in recent memories. For the most part, the A-List (in rap) features take over the show and the aspect of the song comes in those moments. ASAP Rocky’s presence on “Count Me In,” is shown in the production and the smooth poppy melodies it emboldens. There are varying degrees of sonic structures on the album where it creates its own blend of styles as part of an overall theme of new beginnings. 

The many highs on this album are high and the lows are very low. Their experimental – alternative style that made their presence known in the “early days” is evident with the way many songs are constructed, but it doesn’t have that unique pop. With the beginning oozing with single – ready tracks and the rest becoming more and more introspective, these new beginnings feel like they didn’t learn much in the transition, considering a lot of these sounds have some tonal similarities with Ginger. The varying sonic structures tread into sounds – most of which contain semblance of 90s hip-hop, some of which work great and others get drowned by its lack of color. 

Some of these tracks that range in rhythmic style and lyrical context, are where it shows its strengths. Most times these tracks are defined by vocal and tonal depth. When they tackle production styles they’ve barely touched before, like “Windows” and “Don’t Stop The Party,” are like coin tosses. Either it worked for you or it didn’t. And fortunately for the most part it works, and when they get to using live instruments in overlays of some of the tracks is where it shines. 

“Windows,” has this production very reminiscent of work you’d hear prominently in the 90s with the rustic boom-bap percussion overlaying the smaller details. It shows many of the vocalists flex and strut their verbiage. This has never been a problem for the group as they always come in with refreshing flows and verses that explore bigger pictures, but not every track has that kind of overall delivery. “Don’t Shoot Up The Party,” is a try hard bombastic g-funk song that has unique lyricism about social issues, but the vocal delivery just doesn’t land on every level. A lot of the in between these two tracks, unfortunately got lost in the mix as they seem to stay quiet, letting little moments shine on their own, like Charlie Wilson’s guest vocals on “I’ll Take You On.” 

As the album starts to make its way through the second hand, we have the members of BROCKHAMPTON reflecting on recent events in relation their person, like the suicide of Joba’s father and Kevin’s sexuality. They have given us these reflections on “The Light,” and “The Light Pt. 2,” where some of the rock-like overtones have a beautiful nuance in the way they blend with hip-hop percussion. On these tracks, but specifically the first “The Light,” the electric guitar adds an effervescent atmospheric layer.

ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE keeps consistent with exhuming their strengths on these tracks, like Kevin’s idiosyncratic artistry and Matt Champion’s flows, but Joba steals the show every chance he gets. On “What’s The Occasion?” Joba delivers with beautiful cadence, a melodic flow on a raspy falsetto that boosts the effectiveness of the song’s mood/tone.

These tracks that lie in between the aforementioned tracks feature Dom McLennon and Matt Champion in full force, but they don’t have that same attractive grasp as tracks they’ve done together before, like “Sugar,” off 2019’s Ginger. That dynamic seems to be sullen and quiet through the transition of track to track, that upon retrospect aren’t inherently “bad” but the production doesn’t have enough gravitas. That is more on the producers and the creative orchestration of the production to fall under the overall theme of new beginnings. 

ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE is one of BROCKHAMPTON’s weaker outings as a group, but there is enough to keep intrigue, specifically in the opening that oozes replay value. The group has more to come and these “new beginnings,” is just that, especially for some of the more quiet members (producers) shine in their own right.

Rating: 7 out of 10.