BROCKHAMPTON: The Best Boy Band Since One Direction

What are the first groups that come to mind when you think of boy bands? The Backstreet Boys? NSYNC? BTS? Whoever you thought of, it’s likely they are pop or R&B groups. Other than a few exceptions like the Beastie Boys, boy band culture is not incredibly prevalent in hip-hop. But when BROCKHAMPTON was given the title, they embraced it, going so far as to call themselves the “Best boy band since One Direction” on their third studio album SATURATION III. What makes this interesting is that boy bands are seen as unmasculine and nonsynonymous with rap groups. But BROCKHAMPTON makes a point to go against gender and sexuality norms, doing its best to leave its mark on the rap genre. But it’s all coming to a close. BROCKHAMPTON just released their final two albums and have not released tour information as of the time this article is being written. So what will their legacy be? And how has their final work shaped their discography?

The Family was released on November 17th and was advertised as the group’s final album. A prominent member of the group, Kevin Abstract, is the only one who contributed to this album vocally; the rest of them are assumed to have done their share in production. The lyricism is as complex and self-aware as you can get. Abstract often teases himself for his need for validation and his feelings on the group coming to an end. Certain songs like “Good Time” are reminiscent of the early 2000s new wave of rap, often speeding up and slowing down samples from songs of different genres. The album also didn’t shy away from the controversy that almost sunk them, subtly dissing former member Ameer Vann after he was accused of sexual misconduct and kicked out of the band in 2018. As a whole, the album is less radical in sound than expected, but undoubtedly creative in lyrics. Abstract’s embracement of his race and sexuality are vibrant throughout the LP, again proving the boy band is unusual and groundbreaking.

Unlike The Family, the album TM, which was released just a day later, feels like the classic BROCKHAMPTON we know and recognize. Being a short eleven tracks, the album feels like it is running out of time. Only thirty-eight minutes until this band is over. The album has a gentle slow feeling that is oddly paired with a completely separate feel of aggressive and classic rap. A combination is so risky only BROCKHAMPTON could pull it off. The tracklist is in an uppercase presentation, reminiscent of the SATURATION albums, not to mention the title of the band. Although its sister album is sentimental, TM is nothing of the sort. It feels as if it could have been released during the 2010s, and that was clearly the intention. Instead of using lyricism to make the album feel like a final goodbye, the band instead uses words to invoke nostalgia in the listener, forcing them to think of the first time they listened to SATURATION II. Despite the fact that all current group members appear, Kevin Abstract is undeniably at the forefront of almost every track. The aging of the boy band and their relationship with masculinity are mentioned in the album, specifically, in the eighth track CRUCIFY ME. The song contemplates childhood, the future, and the relentlessness of pain. This song is a perfect example of how despite the sound sometimes feeling familiar, the lyrics will always flow with creativity and depth. 

As a whole, the albums feel perfectly representative of the boy band. One embracing the end of the group, the other putting the remembrance of previous albums at the forefront. Being a multiracial group that has queer members, it is expected that the songs would touch on social issues currently affecting the world. But BROCKHAMPTON adds an extra level of self-awareness to it, teasing themselves for their issues and making fun of their own sadness that has stemmed from the band’s dismantling. BROCKHAMPTON uses the title “boy band” to distinguish themselves from other rappers, showing that they aren’t afraid of what listeners will think of their lyrics and rhetoric. BROCKHAMPTON claims to have released the last of their music, but their incredible creativity will leave a mark on hip-hop that won’t disappear.