By: Abyan Nery, Contributing Writer
Featured image courtesy of DJBooth
Fall 2018 has not seen too many memorable album releases, so it was with warranted suspicion that I went into rapper Vince Staples’ latest project “FM!.” However, much like sunshine after a long thunderstorm, this album is a breath of fresh air.
It is uniquely short, with a runtime of only 22 minutes. In those minutes, Staples is able to paint a vivid picture of both the good and the bad side of his hometown of Long Beach, California.
In a place that “always feels like summer,” Staples gives some insight into his neighborhood and the trials and tribulations that come with the life of a gang member. Instead of the usual glorification seen in rap, this album delves into the darker consequences of the rap life and the inherent dangers associated with it. This can be seen even in the production of the music, with dark and reverb-heavy beats that have a foreboding sense, as if a terrible thing is about to happen. The songs are stylistically unique, and sonically united in a way that makes this album incredibly focused. There is a running skit in the album of a radio station which helps to create natural transitions that connect the album together.
Lyrically, Staples is at his best when discussing the violence, crime and death endemic to his experience living in the “LB” and being an active member of the Crips. In deeply personal moments, the rapper talks about friends he’s lost to the streets and how no matter how dedicated they were, all they got when they died was “a plot and a bottle from the Winco.” This album paints a bleak image of the street life and offers an opposite of the traditional portrayal of it in most current trap music. It is a life fraught with danger in which no one is truly safe, whether it be from the police, rival gang member or even death.
A weak point of the album is the various interludes that feature rappers Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga. These interludes are simply one to two- minute blurbs of songs that serve no real purpose other than they fit into the radio station skit on the album. These interludes distract from actual Staples’ songs and if they were not there, they would not make a difference. Overall, this is one of the better albums to come out of the closing months of 2018 and due to its short runtime, has almost endless replayability. This album is worth listening to, as it is personally a very enjoyable experience.