Thursday 15 November 2018

Review of 'FM!' by Vince Staples

Vince knows how to cram a lot of energy into 22 minutes.

These trap bangers come in hard and fast. The Long Beach rapper has always had a knack for choosing the wildest beats conceivable, and whilst he may not have SOPHIE producing for him this time, these are still some filthy instrumentals. Most artists begin or finish on their hardest tracks, but Vince shoves them in the middle – ‘Run the Bands’, ‘FUN!’ and ‘No Bleeding’ hit like a concrete donkey (that’s a Worms reference for those that are scratching their heads).

Speaking of esoteric references, this record is full of them – not to mention generous doses of West Coast slang. As a British listener, I had to use Genius to decode a lot of these bars (I still don’t know what getting ‘chipped’ means). The lyrics may as well be gibberish to me, but there’s no denying Vince can rap. His flow is just as sharp as always, whilst his usually laid-back tone feels more spiky, bordering on Danny Brown squawking on tracks like ‘Don’t Get Chipped’ and ‘Relay’.

FM isn’t as creative as Big Fish Theory, but it’s also less messy. All the songs follow a trendy trap sound. You could argue he’s gone too radio-friendly, but it makes sense given the whole album is designed to sound like a radio playlist. The interludes are the most innovative part of the album – we get an exciting 20 glimpse of a new Earl Sweatshirt song and a not-so-exciting 20 second glimpse of a new Tyga song. Is this going to be a future feature on hip hop albums – will rappers be advertising snippets of upcoming material on other people’s records?

I would have loved to have seen Vince experimenting more as he did on Big Fish Theory, but despite this FM is still a fun listen. Its strength is its ability to shove so much into its short running time. Drake, take note.