Vince Staples is a rapper from North Long Beach, California. He gained notoriety in the hip-hop community with a series of four mixtape releases between 2011-2014. After the success of his last mixtape, Shyne Coldchain II, he was picked up by Def Jam Records and dropped Summertime ’06 in 2015 to universal critical acclaim and reasonably impressive commercial performance, thanks to the record’s lead single, “Norf Norf,” and the infamous reaction video made by a young mother, upset that her children had heard the lyrics. From here, Staples dropped Big Fish Theory in 2017, which was widely considered one of the best projects of the year.
His musical style is quite unique, sporting a chaotic flow which often emphasizes strange rhyme schemes, and a hectic delivery on virtually every track. All this performed over traditional boom-bap instrumentals with distinctly industrial and psychedelic slants. In recent years, Vince has shown himself to be very lyrically talented and incredibly articulate in interviews and public appearances. Coming off of two hits in a row, the question begged itself: Could Vince Staples go a perfect three for three with FM! The short answer? Yes.
To begin the long answer, we’ll start with Vince’s flow, which reaches new heights on this LP. His performance on tracks like the opener, “Feels Like Summer,” and “Don’t Get Chipped,” is expected as he delivers bar after bar over a driving beat, but songs like the title track or the closer and best track on the record, “Tweakin’,” see Staples taking on a new tone, playing with a strange accent on the former and dancing triplets over a slower, spacier instrumental on the latter. He’s beginning to come into his own aesthetically, and this shows through his ability to apply his touch anywhere.
Above this, the beats on this album are fantastic. “Outside’s” eerie guitar lead, the strange, epic tone of “Relay,” and even what sounds like a xylophone on “No Bleedin’.” Each and every song features a broad instrument pallet, responsive drum work, and an interesting tone. Vince’s fantastic performances are elevated indefinitely by such powerful instrumentals.
And, of course, the skits and sound bites here are especially enjoyable on this album. Working to develop the concept of this entire project as a 20 minute slice of an FM radio station, “New Earl Sweatshirt,” “Brand New Tyga,” and “(562)-453-9382” each run under a minute. The third is absolutely hilarious as a man calls into a radio station to compete for concert tickets. He is asked to name seven celebrities who’s names start with the letter “v” and is only able to muster “Venessa Williams” before his time is up, failing to consider Staples at all.
These interludes are excellent, as is the overall concept of the album. With a runtime of only about 20 minutes, the concept keeps the project to a perfect pace, meaning it never drags or overstays its welcome. As with about 20 minutes of an FM radio show, FM! can easily be taken in over a short, morning drive, and it would seem that that is it’s purpose.
In the end, I’m left with very little to complain about. Of course, the album won’t change the course of music history, but it’s a blast to listen to. Vince Staples set out to make a quick record to play as a soundtrack to a short drive around town, and he succeeded perfectly.
FM! aims to carry out the unique concept of a fun 20 minute car ride, bumping along to the radio, and having a good time doing it, and Vince executes this to perfection.