“Summertime 06″ was Vince giving a first person view of the world he grew up, with the mind state and fear based instincts of someone who was bred to either rule or perish, no in between. “Big Fish Theory” was Staples taking 10 steps back, and expanding from his birthplace to the world around him today and 1000 years in the future. Now with FM!, Vince comes back home to see the only thing that’s changed is his perspective on the place he grew up in with the recognition of an audience who does nothing but gain from his people’s pain.
“FM!” came with short notice, and a short run time, but though 22 minutes zooms in and out and works as the watershed moment to solidify Vince Staples as less the lead Long Beach correspondent, instead the behind the scenes puppet master of the local news. Months back, on a nightmare trip to Miami I saw Tyler The Creator live with Taco and Vince as the openers. After Taco played an elite DJ set that went from lo-fi Knxwledge knockoffs to Lil Pump, Vince not only put on a show to out do the headliner, he meshed together all his past works, and maybe inadvertently his future work with his stage show. Surrounding a bullet proof vest wielding Vince were over a hundred rotating screens occasionally fizzing in and out with news anchors telling the troubles of the world today. Following these messages, came a small suite of album cuts fitting the theme of these news clips. Seeing Vince live was eye-opening, not just because it showed how deeply rooted Vince is to this art shit, but the fact that the fan base that embraced and helped break him does not give a flying fuck about that artistry or the new sounds that it breeds. Even after struggling to leave the venue just to see my Santa Fe behind the locked gates of a parking garage with no operating hours or emergency numbers attached, in the back of my mind the crowd still confused me. I’ve been to handfuls of concerts before, and never have the openers and headliners had such a directly connected audience, and never have I seen a less enthusiastic crowd when Vince touched the stage. Given, the Odd Future fans of old that still hold a beef against 2DopeBoyz and Steve Harvey for no reason other then Tyler told us to, are not one in the same with the very young pastel bearing audience a 2018 Tyler the Creator show brings in. After taking the wrong Uber to a hotel with zero reviews & one overpriced room left on the other side of town, a very embarrassing call home on why I wouldn’t be home that night, and many months passed, I saw the video for “FUN!”. A look into his Ramona Park neighborhood by way of a Google Maps camera, ending with a young and frightened white kid closing his laptop to run downstairs for dinner. A kid who fit the demographics of said 2018 Tyler The Creator shows to a tee.
Artists like Nas, Biggie, Boosie, have had their careers defined by how great their storytelling is. Vince is another person who should be sworn into this exclusive club. Though he doesn’t always focus on direct narratives the way they do, Vince can create an ethereal feeling within his records that makes him less a narrator, and more the director of the film that’s being told. This new vision of stepping out of the spotlight and letting the scenery tell the story makes hip-hops most popular crip (next to the Patron Saint of Long Beach himself) like few before him. Acting as the voice of the people most times comes not from the want to do so, but more it’s all they know. It’s an option to all artists, but best done unconsciously. An obligation forced on to artists today is one to be political and forcing these conversations to be had by people who are uninformed, misguided, or frankly are too twisted to be given a platform for these views. Again, Vince is none of these. Rather he’s a young man who sees what’s going on, knows why it’s going on, was once a part of the problem for survival, and now has the platform and mindset to push forward change for the better.
Bringing along Big Boy and his radio show cast to ease his new report along the way the stage screens did, with Staples being less the centerpiece and more the glue to hold the show together. In 11 tracks E-40, Ty Dolla $ign, Kamiyah, Kehlani, Jay Rock, Earl Sweatshirt (!!!!) and Tyga (??!!??) manage to show their faces, along with background vocals from other acts of the West Coast’s never ending pantheon of acts. Bars flowing with peanut gallery humor, gun talk, and remorse over window breaking bang alongside production almost entirely from producer of the year, Kenny Beats with co-producer credits coming from Cubeatz (co-credits on R.I.C.O., THat Part) and Hagler (co-credits on Trophies, Teenage Fever). Kenny has been omnipresent this year with his ear popping, high energy collabs with 03 Greedo, Rico Nasty, Key! and Zack Fox all while another album with ALLBLACK sits in the tuck for later this month. At first glance the crowded credits are overwhelming but with Vince having such a clear vision for his projects yet again, every cog rotates with ease. Collaboration and storytelling are the foundation rap was built on when it was all James Brown and disco samples 45 years ago in the Bronx, and in 2018 a kid from Long Beach can play puppet master behind a head rush of an LP with these same ideals and still sound like no one else.
Best Tracks: “Don’t Get Chipped” & “Tweakin’”
Best Verse: “Run The Bands” Verse 2
Best Beat: “Relay”