Vince Staples – FM!
Released: 2 November 2018
FM! is familiarly unorthodox. Vince Staples borrows the usual gun and gang talk prevalent in West Coast Hip-Hop, but contrasts it against electronic-influenced instrumentals, still uniquely Hip-Hop, drowned in trap-speaking drums. Vince also calls on a host of West Coast artists for FM! including Ty$, Kehlani, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyga, Jay Rock, Buddy, Kamayiah and of course Big Boy In The Morning family!
★★★★★: Best in show; pinnacle release from an all-time great artist.
★★★★1/2: Stellar example of genre; peak potential.
★★★★: Excellent; recommended to all fans of artist or genre.
★★★1/2: Very good; a few bland songs or minor flaws throughout.
★★★: Good; fans of the artist will find value here.
★★1/2: Average; does little to establish the artist or maintain quality.
★★: Unexceptional; a few highlights but otherwise bland.
★1/2: Weak; unrecommended for anyone but major fans of the style and/or artist.
★: Seriously flawed; very poor work but relatively listenable.
1/2: Terrible; a true embarrassment and akin to audio masochism.
SONG BY SONG RATING
#1) Feels Like Summer (feat Ty$): 3.5/5 – Good intro featuring Ty$, but lyrically Vince is jogging at 60% with loose non sequitur bars about White fans at Coachella
#2) Outside!: 4/5 – One of my favorite songs on the project, Vince feels very comfortable here and the strong vocal inflections the hook demands are right up his alley
#3) Don’t Get Chipped (feat Jay Rock): 3.75/5 – Sounds like Kendrick Lamar penned Vince’s verses to this song, or at the very least created the flow. This sounds like Kendrick’s delivery, too. FURTHERMORE, in Verse 2 Vince Staples spits a bar about “throwing a party on your block like I’m Tommy the Clown” which further leads me to believe that Kendrick wrote some of these bars because Tommy the Clown operated mostly in South Central LA (TDE land) and not Long Beach (where Vince Staples is from). The Jay Rock feature here makes me even more curious of the writing origins…
#4) Relay: 3.25/5
#5) New earlsweatshirt (interlude) –
#6) Run the Bands: 3.5/5 – Impressive verses, but wrapped in a redundant and bland hook. Vince’s last verse is one of my favorite moments on the album, though
#7) Fun!: 4.25/5 – Easily the album’s theme song and anthem. This is the song that actually ‘feels like summer’
#8) No Bleedin’ (feat Kamayiah): 3.5/5
#9) Brand New Tyga interlude –
#10) (562) 453-9382 skit –
#11) Tweakin (feat Buddy & Kehlani): 4/5 Vince raps with the most introspection on this song. He deploys some pretty deep bars about disparate family & friend ties
TOTAL 3.7/5 – Sonically, FM! feels urgent. Vince Staples raps with a pressing insistence, every bar bleeding with what feels like existential urgency – perhaps speaking to his existence as a gang member growing up in Long Beach’s Crip sets.
CRITICAL BREAKDOWN: VINCE STAPLES’ DIRECTION & MOTIVATION
FM! is a vibrant effort, but how motivated is Vince Staples to create music right now? Despite being musically palatable, a fine-combed listen through FM! reveals a directionless project (much like Kilo Kish’s mothe EP), a symptom I can only describe as either the result of a mid-20s crisis (Vince Staples is 25 y/o) or one caused a lack of felt purpose in Hip-Hop. That’s why I asked the question – how motivated is Vince Staples?
FM! runs at 22 minutes & 16 seconds; approximately 2 of those 22 minutes are composed of interludes and skits. Big Boy In The Morning skits connect the album under a common theme. However, despite my nostalgic love for Big Boy In The Morning, it’s quite obvious the Big Boy theme was done to cover FM!‘s lack of cohesion. How old are some of these songs? How many different sessions, and across what duration were these songs recorded?
VERDICT: ★★★1/2: Very good; a few bland songs or minor flaws throughout.
When you strip FM! bare, it’s simply a loose compilation of various-styled songs; there’s no direction. And the album feels like it ends really abruptly due to the placement of the skits. The Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga song interludes split the album at tracks #5 and #9, and the additional “(562) 453-9382 skit” at track #10 (coming right after Tyga’s interlude) leads into the outro, causing the album’s end to feel abrupt and rushed.
“When Jabari died, was off the porch for homicides
Then when Half had died, I bought some things to pass the guys
But when Johnny died, all I had was shows booked
Down to burn in Hell, I don’t care how my soul look”