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Vince Staples: FM! Review

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In a surprising break from Vince Staples’ usual style of a slow but hard-hitting flow over a dark and moody beat, the Long Beach, California rapper swings over to the sunnier side of gangland life with a tape (or an album, or playlist, or something) brimming with fast, vibrant instrumentals complemented with a much hastier flow than Vince usually puts out. The album also features Tyga, Kehlani, and Earl Sweatshirt, who had been absent from the hip-hop scene for a few years prior.

The project had little in the way of an early warning concerning it’s release. Earlier this week, we got a taste of the tape’s full expanse with the release of “FUN!”, a party-going banger with a funky, droning instrumental with a heavy-hitting drumline, lighthearted and playful lyrics, and a flow to match: The quintessential Vince Staples song.

The tape opens with a flurry of radio channels being cycled through before stopping on the voice of famed radio host, Big Boy; A well-known voice among Los Angeles radio-goers. He’s heard in the midst of a conversation with his co-hosts before the opening track, “Feels Like Summer”, begins (not to be confused with the Donald Glover song released this July under the same name). The track sets the theme for the larger album, a showcase of Vince’s versatility as an artist and a break from his usually slower, less aggressive and more sinister sounding flow. The project also has its share of catchy verses from Vince, mostly residing in Outside and Relay, which both retain a striking resemblance to Vince’s classic style. The tape’s got a collection of featured artists such as Tyga, Kehlani, and most notably, Earl Sweatshirt, a longtime partner of Vince, who had his own feature on Earl’s 2013 album, “Doris”.

After a while, though, the fast tempo of the album does become repetitive, and there simply aren’t enough slower paced bangers interspersed to break up the monotony that begins to become prevalent towards the back end of the track. Another (rather nitpicky) flaw that I kept dwelling on while listening is that it felt a tad out of place as an album released in early November, rather than in the warmer months, which would have suited the album slightly better. The most glaring downside of the album, though, is its relatively short length, clocking in at a little over 22 minutes long.

Those few flaws aside, the album is a refreshing, no frills, rapid fire fusilade of a project that without a doubt stands out as one of the best projects in Vince Staples’ discography; I give this album an 8/10.

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