Vince Staples – FM!

Long Beach’s most exceptional rapper/Twitter personality/black activist/community leader is back again with another project. Vince Staples is a man of many talents. He’s smart, funny, honest, an entertaining musician as well as a colorful personality off the mic. Vince is just as famous for his great Twitter rants and interview hot takes as he is for his music and artistry, which is saying a lot considering how good he is at rapping. His attitude towards hip-hop culture is unique; he brings a fresh and eye-opening perspective on the hip-hop that many of his fans know and love. Some say that he doesn’t take it as seriously as he should, and some say that he doesn’t respect his elders, which is ironic because his lyrical approach to rap is an “old-school” approach in today’s day and age. In all actuality, however, he often makes excellent points about how the music industry as a whole has never been out for black artists best interest among other insightful things, hence the reason he distances himself from the “culture” at times. His hot takes on various cultural topics can spark neverending barbershop debates,  so to save you the reading, I’m gonna go ahead and see what’s really REALLY good with his newest project.

Scouting Report

  • Vince is a fantastic rapper, both technically and sonically sound. Picks unique instrumentals and often entertainingly delivers high-level bars at a high rate of success
  • As a lyricist he shines as a storyteller; his stories mostly touch on his past as a child growing up underprivileged in a gang-infested neighborhood, but also is very insightful (albeit hopeless at times) regarding issues in his and similar communities
  • He keeps it street but always gives uncanny attention to detail and an individual, unique perspective on a story that’s been told in hip-hop over and over again
  • Best Songs released before FM!: Nate,” “Screen Door,” “Norf Norf,” “Like It Is,” “Big Fish
  • Best Project released before FM!: Summertime ’06

Track-by-Track

As always, make sure you reference this to understand my scores for tracks and albums.

  1. Feels Like Summer: Starts with L.A. radio personality Big Boy introducing the song. Upbeat but eerie instrumental where Vince raps about summertime and how it’s fun but dangerous. Excellent hook from Ty Dolla $ign. 4.5/5
  2. Outside!: Another dark but upbeat instrumental where Vince raps in a catchy flow about the consequences of being outside when gang affiliated and speaks how hanging outside can cost you your life. Pronounced hook repping the lifestyle. 4/5
  3. Don’t Get Chipped: More mellowed out instrumental, Vince Staples reflects on his come up from the slums and how he’s made it for himself and his family. Jay Rock gives a chorus that echoes the same sentiment. 4/5
  4. Relay: Sinister production on this one by Hagler, best beat on the project. References black activists and police brutality in his lyrics, Vince talks systematic oppression in a catchy way. 4.5/5
  5. New earlsweatshirt (Interlude): Skit of a short snippet of an unreleased Earl Sweatshirt song, sounds good for its limited 23-second length, fits with the radio theme that started the album. 3.5/5
  6. Run the Bands: Energetic hook that encapsulates the mood of the instrumental, Vince flexes about how great his life is and also about how he stays true to the streets. Delivered well. 4/5
  7. FUN!: Very wavy, Bay area influenced production, fitting for the excellent E40 feature on the outro. Vince raps again about the dangerous things that happen in his neighborhood, but at the end of the day wants to have fun and avoid it. 4.5/5
  8. No Bleedin: Another energetic west coast instrumental. Repetitive but catchy hook from Vince. Oakland native Kamaiyah makes an appearance but doesn’t match Vince’s level. Good song all around. 4/5
  9. Brand New Tyga (Interlude): Almost identical format as track five except with a FIRE unreleased Tyga song, wish he could’ve blessed us with the whole thing. 4.5/5
  10. (562) 453-9382 (Skit): This skit includes a radio station caller challenge from Big Boy himself where the caller fails miserably, leads Big Boi to say he’s tweaking and lead to the next song. N/A
  11. Tweakin: A spacey instrumental where Vince speaks on the depressing regularity of his friends dying in his neighborhood despite his new level of success. Kehlani and Buddy with vocals that complete the song. 4.5/5

Final Thoughts

Vince delivers yet another very good all around rap album. Albeit it’s concise running time at 23 minutes, he manages to get his message across poignantly and creatively. The radio station vibe for this album includes one of hip-hops most prominent radio personalities, as well as the interludes and skits, ties the record together extremely nicely, allowing it to play front to back seamlessly with no hiccups in transition. As far as his dark and lawless subject matter goes there are no surprises. Vince gives us an updated view of what we’ve come to expect from him content-wise as fans, but in a way we aren’t used to sonically. There are no songs on this album that are at the level of Vince’s very best tracks in his discography, and most sound more like west coast radio hits (again keeping to the concept) than most of his previous work. Again, this is not a bad thing, and even though he stepped out of his sonic comfort zone yet again, but I didn’t think Vince hit his lyrical potential. Maybe this was by design; the album could have another level to it regarding how the culture interprets the radio and hip-hop, but that’s another conversation for another day. All in all, dope concept album with no elite rap performances but also no bad songs as Vince again shows his incredible versatility regarding his sound.

Final Score: 87/100

 

 

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