How should Brockhampton be remembered?


Amanda Riha

Illustration by

Xavier Cullen, Staff Writer

I still remember the day Brockhampton changed forever.

It was May 26, 2018. I was only 17 years old and going to my first music festival, Boston Calling. Innocent me was culture-shocked by all the smoking, drinking and other adult activities that I witnessed, but none of that mattered anymore. I was going to see my favorite rap group of all time.

I shuffled my way through the crowd, excited to get as close as I could without getting caught in a mosh pit. The men who made the soundtrack to my teenage years began walking out, and the crowd went crazy. I went crazy too.

Except, someone is missing. The music played, and the energy was still infectious, but one question stuck in the back of our minds: “Where is Ameer Vann?” As soon as his verse came up … silence. The beats were playing, but the lyrics were missing. Everyone on stage looked down like they were ashamed, and then they started breaking down in tears.

It was a short show, and we were left stunned. What just happened?

The next day, everything was clear. Vann was accused of sexual and emotional abuse by two of his ex-girlfriends. One even said he previously had sexual relations with a minor. Vann admitted he had been a bad partner in the past and hoped to grow as a person, but he refuted all the allegations. Regardless of his apology, the group kicked him out, and rightfully so.

Dom McLennon, another group member, even tweeted that Vann admitted to staging a home invasion of one of McLennon’s friends. That was the start of Brockhampton’s death. It was slow, bloody and painful to watch. They didn’t die from obscurity. In fact, they were arguably more popular without Vann than with him. Hits like “SUGAR,” which eclipsed 400 million streams on Spotify, propelled them to superstardom.

Instead, they died from metaphorical internal bleeding. Members started turning on each other. The band became more distant. Vann was a close childhood friend of band leader Kevin Abstract, and without him, the group lost focus and a reason to keep going. What once was a group of friends making music they loved became co-workers who were contractually obliged to write an album.

However, it’s not like they gave up. Each one of the band’s projects post-Vann has been filled with heart and emotion, but it felt directionless. Albums would be announced and then never come out, such as “Team Effort” and “PUPPY.” Abstract would tweet that the next album would be the last, only for him to delete the tweet, walk back on the statement and act as if nothing happened.

Being a Brockhampton fan feels like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded. Each twist completely disorients you, and you desperately clench the railing for whenever the final fall comes.

In the lead-up to “The Family,” released on Nov. 17, it felt like we were being tricked yet again. Is this truly the fina l album, or is it just another stunt to keep fans on their toes? Well, what fans got was a bit of both.

First, in the sense that this wasn’t technically the final album — that title goes to TM, which is a compilation of unfinished tracks released later that same day — and second, in the sense that it’s unlike anything the band has done in the past.

In reality, this isn’t a Brockhampton album at all. Instead, it’s 35 minutes of Abstract airing out the group’s dirty laundry that has been piling up for years. Every line pulls back the curtain of the past six years and every piece of drama that has unfolded since then. Each verse is Abstract lamenting about what could have been and what he should have done to keep everyone happy. He talks about his fights with McLennon, the bickering over money, the grueling tour dates that burned everyone out and his own personal problems that he took out on his friends.

Abstract even says in the final track “Brockhampton” that he and Vann have gotten back in touch since he was kicked out of the group despite the other members being vehemently against it.

Brockhampton albums usually consist of the members flowing off of each other in a perfect synergy that you don’t get from any other rap group today. But Abstract’s all alone here and that dynamic is completely torn to shreds.

That’s fitting for the album whose theme revolves around loneliness, separation and regret. “The Family” is less of a send-off for the group and more of Abstract coming to terms with the end of an era for him and his friends.

What started with a blog post by 14-year-old Abstract, looking for people to start a band, has now turned into internet stardom that was just too good to last. That’s what makes “The Family” so tragic. Brockhampton flew too close to the sun, and its members paid the ultimate price. It’s clear that Abstract and the rest of Brockhampton are no longer the boyband I grew up on. They, too, have grown up.

So what do we take away from this? How do we, as fans, reflect on the massive impact Brockhampton has had on us? Can we enjoy the nostalgia of the “SATURATION” trilogy, even knowing what Vann has done? Should we mourn the death of Brockhampton, or be happy that the members can go their separate ways and bloom on their own? Is this really the end we were hoping for?

I don’t know what the future holds for Abstract and the rest of the gang. If there’s one thing I learned from the past six years following them is that they don’t follow the normal path. What I do know is that this is a group of incredibly talented men who I am so happy to have welcomed into my life. Despite all the drama, they were able to shape my music taste forever and bring people together.

That’s how I think Brockhampton should be remembered. Not for how it died, but for how it lived.