Vince Staples’ new project elicits images of SoCal

Tanner Owens

Whether it’s an album, project or EP is beside the point.

Vince Staples’ latest release plays like a radio exclusive, with various skits throughout and brief previews of two artists’ new sounds. Despite the confusion of what exactly to call the set of songs, it is a breath of fresh air in the era of sad-boy ballads and mumble rap.

“FM!” features 11 tracks coming in at a tight 22 minutes. Three of the tracks are skits featuring the popular Los Angeles-based radio show “Big Boy’s Neighborhood.” Two other tracks on the project both clock in at under 30 seconds, featuring raps from Tyga and Earl Sweatshirt.

The remaining five songs blast through the project with fierce bravado, especially “Relay” and “Don’t Get Chipped.” Both songs carry a familiar booming 808 and an easily-recognizable West Coast-style beat. Staples’ lyrics are as hostile as they are confident, adding to the familiarities with 1990’s West Coast rap.

“My black is beautiful but I’ll still shoot at you, dawg,” Staples said on the woozy “FUN!”

“FUN!” features the most interesting beat of the project. The song is driven by a unique wavy synth sound and features another prominent California rapper, E40. The song’s music video currently has over 600,000 views on Youtube and shows Staples and company on the streets of Los Angeles from the view of a Google Maps street view vehicle.

The video features adults and kids being arrested, fighting and throwing rocks at the camera. Staples narrates the events with his lyrics as well as directly addressing the camera in the music video.

“No Bleedin” is a smash mouth power trip carried by an overpowering bass-heavy beat and Staples’ in-your-face rhymes. The song is a prime example of his production savvy, featuring many different samples that fit cleverly into the beat.

The first song of the album sums up what the release is reminiscent of, Summer. “Feels Like Summer” sets the scene for the rest of the songs to come. The album elicits images of SoCal evenings. Especially now, coming into the winter months, Staples’ “FM!” is the perfect way to escape to a warmer place.

“Ayy, summertime in the LB… Drop top with the top down now,” said featured artist Ty Dolla Sign in “Feels Like Summer.”

The most frustrating part of Staples’ latest project, besides the length, is the tasty 22-second track “New earlsweatshirt (Interlude).” Earl Sweatershirt — real name Thebe Neruda Kgositsile — has not released an album since his 2015 sophomore endeavor “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt.”

The song features the Odd Future member rapping for a measly 20 seconds, while the other two seconds of the already-short song featured the “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” intro. 

The song also pays homage to Kgositsile’s late father, poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, as well as saying “Gotta speak for dead homies when they time end.”

The ending line is supposedly in reference to the recent unexpected death of one of Kgositsile’s close friends, Mac Miller.

Tyga’s interlude, titled “Brand New Tyga (Interlude),” shows Tyga following a familiar formula and not exuding anything really worth being excited about. Tyga has never been the most skilled rapper, nor the most creative, and his latest song has yet again proven he is not among hip-hop’s creative geniuses.

The skits of the project surprisingly didn’t take away from the experience. If anything, they did a commendable job in creating a unique listening experience, making it feel as if the listener is also in Los Angeles, cruising down Highway 101 with the top down and listening to “Big Boy’s Neighborhood.”

“It was like, if you were just in Los Angeles and going throughout your day, listening to the radio, going to a barbecue, hanging out, hanging with the homies—whatever it may be,” said Big Boy in a recent Complex interview.