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Vince Staples - Ramona Park Broke My Heart (Album Review)

Wednesday, 20 April 2022 Written by Tom Morgan

Photo: Zamar Velez

Vince Staples is nothing if not unpredictable. From his inventive 2015 debut to last year’s ultra lean self-titled album, the Long Beach rapper never fails to surprise and, occasionally, confound.

His fusion of contemporary west coast hip-hop with avant-garde electronica was best-realised on 2017’s ‘Big Fish Theory’, a stone-cold modern classic that epitomised its creator’s unique vision. Since then, ‘FM!’ and ‘Vince Staples’ were both short and slightly underwhelming attempts at crafting a more conventional sound.

However, ‘Ramona Park Broke My Heart’ finds a happy medium between those releases and the bold thrills of Big Fish Theory. These 16 tracks survey a larger canvas, while also incorporating plenty of eclectic ambition.

While Staples’ last two albums featured plenty of his cheeky humour and sharp imagery, the production never strayed far from contemporary hip-hop familiarity. His latest goes to some much more interesting places. 

When Sparks Fly contains endless depths of reverb, Aye! Free the Homies is bolstered by bright synths while closer The Blues eschews beats in place of dreamy guitars.None of which is to say that ‘Ramona Park Broke My Heart’ is a wholly cerebral experience. 

Magic With Mustard is a resplendent example of modern g-funk, while the Ty Dolla $ign-featuring Lemonade is home to earworm vocal hooks and weighty bass. Staples loves the party sensibilities of west coast hip hop as much as he does the textural nuances of his more esoteric influences, which he smashes together in thrilling fashion.

Staples has really found his sweet spot here. It’s never quite as jaw-dropping as his benchmark ‘Big Fish Theory’, but the fusion of accessibility and experimentalism makes ‘Ramona Park Broke My Heart’ a shining example of why he is at the forefront of one of the most innovative artforms in modern popular culture.

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