Vince Staples is the star attraction of a radio show-styled project here; and FM! is well worth tuning into. This surprise third album is short in length but has plenty of miles in its delivery, offering some west coast flavours and some nice surprises along the way.
Vince Staples has been a rather intriguing prospect in the hip-hop genre since his emergence to the mainstream in 2015. Featuring on the XXL Freshman List, releasing a hometown pride masterclass of a debut album in Summertime ’06, following that with a quirky transitional mixtape titled Prima Donna; and then daring to be different with his Drum & Bass/UK Garage influenced sophomore album Big Fish Theory. We ranked that album as the best of 2017 and with good reason, it set Vince up for special things in his future but 2018 was a very quiet one for him; until now.
He was keeping quiet about new music before announcing something in the most Vince Staples way possible on Twitter; nothing cryptic, just hilarious:
FM! was released in the same week it was announced, a confident way to go about album promotion for sure but with it coming just a year after the brilliance of Big Fish Theory, would the quality and innovation match?
Described as a “West Coast affair”, this album was taking it back to the streets rather than the raves and party style of his last work. It clocks in at just 22 minutes in length, which sounds short but let’s remember that’s a similar length to the Kanye trifecta that came out over the summer? Those along with FM! are proof that great hip-hop albums can be short and to the point.
The album’s opener, Feels Like Summer, is a nasty rap hit with bouncy West-styled flows and a slick beat. While Ty Dolla $ign’s feature on the hook is smooth and wondrous, the lyrical content of Vince implies that things aren’t as bright and peachy as they seem. He asserts himself as a true stallion in the gang affiliated lifestyle, teasing the prospect of pulling out guns if the need to arises.
Once I saw the tracklist I was drawn, as I am sure many others were too, to a specific song titled New earlsweatshirt. Hearing Earl, even if it was for 23 seconds, was a call back to my late teens when I was bumping all of his albums; and if this snippet is a sign of things to come then we are in for a treat. He sounds nasty over this beat.
Another feature track was Brand New Tyga, enough to leave me concerned as Tyga has never been a favourite of mine. But, as I have now discovered with this 40 second track, if it’s good enough for Vince it’s good enough for me. Tyga sounds slick and energetic over the bop-style beat and if he were to base his sound off this, we would hear a lot more praise for him.
The hooks on this album are repetitive but smooth, balancing the contrast of catchy and punchy in the delivery on tracks like Don’t Get Chipped and Run The Bands. His vocal deliveries breathe life into the album with fresh attitude and hometown pride. Cut Vince Staples open and he bleeds for Long Beach, California. Outside has a huge bass-heavy beat which he absolutely demolishes with a unique flow and dominant hook; and Relay is quirky in the most sadistic of ways as Vince asks us if we “wanna know about some gangsta shit”.
This album felt to me like a victory lap of his past few years, rising to prominence in the genre and pushing the boundaries of conceptual sound in commercial hip-hop. I am 100% certain there is more to come from him, more than likely a more refined, prolonged release next year; but what we were given for now is more than enough. Vince reinvented himself again here and it has left everyone thoroughly intrigued for what he has in store next.