Home > News & Reviews > Vince Staples

Vince Staples - FM! (Album Review)

Friday, 09 November 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

There's something jarring about hearing 'FM!', California rapper Vince Staples’ latest record, for the first time. That's not to say it's gratingly abstract or experimental – if anything, it's the opposite as we're treated to a series of trap and hyphy-inspired cuts over the course of 22 minutes. It's a bitesize project from an artist who made his name with a double album, 'Summertime 06', and last year's futuristic 'Big Fish Theory'.

But nothing Staples ever throws out is ever truly disposable, even when he appears to suggest so himself. Quoted in its press release, Staples described the record as “no concepts, no elaborate schemes, just music”. However, even that's not entirely true given the album's structure. In essence, 'FM!' is sequenced in the form of a radio playlist, with staged interludes and recurring skits from local DJ Big Boy.

The tracks themselves are brief, bassy and hook-driven, designed to – as Dead End Hip Hop critic would put it – “bump in the whip”. And make no mistake about it: these are some of Staples' catchiest and bounciest verses ever.

His “who 'bout that life?” gangland call-out on Outside is uncomfortably infectious, and he invokes his Long Beach hero Snoop Dogg on Run the Bands by skipping playfully over sinister bell-like synths.

If his delivery seems incongruous with the surrounding production, it's worth considering that nothing Staples does is ever fully straightforward. For example, it at first it appears a practical mistake to release a project that depicts “summertime in the LB” at the start of November. But Big Boy rationalises this in the album's intro: “Whatever day, vibe, month it is, it just feels like summer...it always feels like summer in the neighbourhood, man.”

Staples has a strong grasp of how to convey time and place in his music, whether that’s through his lyrics or sample choices. He paints an impressionistic picture of Long Beach, a perpetually hot resort-like coastal neighbourhood nevertheless beset with dangers. He describes having his “head on a swivel” on No Bleedin', assuring listeners he's always on high alert with rapid-fire rhyme patterns (“Feds on me, hit the gate, double back and hit the block, feds on me, skippin’ state, I'ma buy another spot”).

And for all 'FM!' is short and lacking the verse quality we've come to expect from Staples, it's not really designed to stay the distance. He ultimately saves the best track for last – having depicted his exterior environment for most of the project, Tweakin' snaps back to his inner psyche as his delivery becomes increasingly tortured and rigid. He reflects on his last verse that “poor people gon' use this shit, might as well go and get used to it” and he's “tryna get rich, get everybody fed, but everybody dead”.

It's a reminder that even without “elaborate schemes”, his gut instinct isn't to romanticise the world he's grown up in but accurately represent a community that's had the spirit beat out of it. Staples attempts to show on 'FM!' he has the ability to switch it up and write radio-friendly rap hits, but you can't help but see his gradual reversion to social realist as less by fault than it is design.





Let Us Know What You Think - Leave A Comment!




Related News

Vince Staples Drops New Track Hell Bound
Fri 20 Dec 2019
Vince Staples has dropped a new track.
Vince Staples Shares 6lack And Mereba Collaboration Yo Love
Tue 12 Nov 2019
Vince Staples has shared a new track.
Vince Staples Releases New Song Sheet Music From Second Episode Of Self-Titled Web Series
Fri 01 Nov 2019
Vince Staples has shared a new song.
Loud Times: The Metal Bands Who Made 2019 A Year To Savour
Thu 12 Dec 2019
This year was an enormous one for heavy metal. From fresh-faced upstarts making names for themselves to classic heroes making long-awaited comebacks, it has been a jam-packed 12 months for fans of all things face-melting. So, who better to review the state of the metal nation than the artists themselves?
'I Wanted This Album To Be The Thing That Wipes The Tears Away': Bishop Briggs Talks 'Champion'
Fri 06 Dec 2019
Bishop Briggs wrote her second album ‘Champion’ when she was feeling defeated. Repeating the empowering words of the album’s eponymous lead track like a mantra, to regain self-worth after a painful breakup, she created her emotional fight music. 
"Roundaboutly Winging It": Amyl And the Sniffers On Their Breakthrough Year
Fri 13 Dec 2019
td#right {display:none !important;} Photo: Gareth Jarvis From her perch atop a flight case strategically placed in the middle of the stage, Amyl and the Sniffers vocalist Amy Taylor is surveying the rowdiness of the crowd at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach in all its sweaty glory. “Fuck Boris, he’s a racist hooligan, you deserve better than that,” she spits into the mic. “Fuck Boris, fuck Trump and fuck Scott Morrison.”
Seventeen To Bring Ode To You World Tour To UK And Europe In March
Mon 09 Dec 2019
Seventeen will bring their Ode To You World Tour to the UK and Europe next spring.
Liam Payne - LP1 (Album Review)
Fri 13 Dec 2019
Liam Payne's graduation from One Direction member to solo star was engineered to feel like a sexy and confident hip hop evolution, twisted up with Justin Timberlake-esque cool. Alongside bringing a sense of maturity to the boy band icon’s attitude and music choices, smouldering portraits of the 26-year-old filtered through to the covers of glossy magazines everywhere.
 
< Prev   Next >