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Vince Staples Pens His Snarky Love Letter To Long Beach, Ca.

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Vince Staples is one of hip hop’s most honest and outspoken talents. Since his first mixtape eight years ago, Vince has remained true to who he is. Who could be mad at that? He’s a black kid from Long Beach, California with first-hand gang-banging experience and heavy 2000’s pop influence. But many felt he held back creatively. There seemed to be Vince Staples the rapper, and then an outspoken, wise-cracking personality on social media and in interviews. But both personas never merged on wax.

Over the years, we’ve been able to learn about Vince’s dark sense of humor via his trolling on social media and in interviews. If you follow him on Twitter, you know he is hands down one of the funniest people on the app (“The national anthem don’t even slap.” “Niggas telling me I wouldn’t exist without 90s hip hop as if I don’t have a mother or father.”). On the 11-track project FM!, Staples finally brings that snarky personality to his music. FM! is crafted by producers Hagler and Kenny Beats. Hagler scored half of Vince’s Hell Can Wait EP in 2014. Kenny Beats is fresh off the release of this spring’s 777, which many call KEY!’s best body of work. The two producers were able to help Vince pair his knack for storytelling with his impressive ability to create elaborate rhyme patterns. Ironically, it’s unclear if Vince is trolling or really aiming to make hit songs, because the production and hooks are all radio tracks.

The first voice we hear on FM! is L.A. radio personality Big Boy detailing how beautiful and perfect West Coast summers are on “Feels Like Summer.” But Vince quickly debunks that fairytale: “Summertime in the LB wild/We gonna party ’til the sun or the guns come out,” with Ty Dolla $ign floating all over the hook. The songs are short, but they never feel abrupt or unfinished. Vince has an uncanny ability to fit a lot of words into his bars with his storytelling. He can get as much plot into a line or two as his peers do in entire verses.

On FM! Vince accomplishes the feat of making an album that is true to who he is. It depicts his love for his hometown and his love for West Coast hip hop, all while putting his unique personality on full display. Seeing a Long Beach summer through his lens is quite interesting. On “Relay” he details how crime can effect people, even the ones trying their best to avoid it: “Baby went to Howard, got a BA / Had her baby shower in her PJs / Got her baby daddy for a GTA / On the GTL tryna beat the case / Crime he kept it silent, least that’s what he say / From direct deposit to the lawyer plate / If he fuck around and take the stand on her dude / He gon’ have to raise his baby from the visiting room.”

Vince did something really clever and also showed us how much of an asshole he is on this project. Many say he can’t make radio records so he literally gets one of Hip-Hop’s biggest radio personalities to host his entire album. Getting Big Boy to host your album isn’t an easy thing, and it’s a huge symbolic fuck you to critics pretty much saying “radio absolutely fucks with me” — making some of his catchiest music ever, while still displaying the lyricism he’s known for. This album takes his trolling so far, that he teases us Funk Flex-style by dropping snippets for Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga songs that both slap, leaving us wanting to hear the full tracks. The moments give Vince the chance to highlight two artists he genuinely appreciates.

“Fun” is a feel-good bouncy beat with help from the legendary E-40. Vince brings it all together with a clever hook: “My black is beautiful, but I’ll still shoot at you.” Vince shows off his lyrical abilities on “Outside,” where he hits the pocket to make lines like, “Park gangster back then/At my Uncle Phil’s house with a mac 10” as memorable as any chorus. And on “No Bleedin” he enlists Bay Area favorite Kamaiyah for a catchy anthem track.

This album is a bit of a mind fuck because some may say its to appease his critics and some may say this is absolutely an album for him. Vince is such an intelligent artist that he found a happy medium for both and showed he absolutely can make radio records and stay true to who he is. Many young rappers are unable to find their place in today’s rap world, with pretty much all of them having cookie cutter sounds and looks. On FM! Vince Staples was finally able to be be the guy he is on social media and in interviews without sacrificing creativity or losing his edge.