Music

Vince Staples Injects Some Sunshine Into His Funk On The Surprise New Album ‘FM!’

Def Jam

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Vince Staples’ music is not for popular consumption. I don’t mean that to say that Vince Staples’ music isn’t wildly popular — it is.

Vince Staples, resident of Long Beach, California, Ramona Park Crip, purveyor of challenging, assertive music the like of which probably won’t be considered mainstream for a decade or so, does not care for your popular consideration. Status, so much as its a tool to achieve a goal and not the goal itself, is not a primary concern of Vince’s — if it is, it’s of the financial more than the cultural or social variety.

Up until now, his music has been dark, devastating, eerie, unruly, grating, sinister, shocking, and unconventional, with tones and moods ranging from nihilistically languid to something that can only be described as the feeling of a swarm of wasps whose nest has been disturbed. He’s a cactus with a smile drawn on, as inviting as he is prickly, as confessional as he is “War Ready.” He doesn’t want or need your approval, but with his latest release, the nostalgic FM! he just might win it anyway — though still very much on his own terms.

Dedicated to his “number one fan,” his own younger self, FM! is built around the familiar Staples theme of summertime nostalgia. It’s cleverly held together by a running motif of interludes borrowed straight from terrestrial radio. Popular LA-area radio host Big Boy of the long-running morning show “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” ties everything together with sketches yanked straight from his own drive-time slot. The Power 106 host is as familiar to locals as Staples’ Summertime 06 disaster funk and Big Fish Theory‘s menacing electronica is foreign to the domestic radio format. Big Boy might never get caught blasting the five-alarm sirens of “Blue Suede” or the doom-and-gloomy “Senorita,” but that’s where Kenny Beats, Hagler, CuBeatz, and KillaGraham step in to endow FM! with a sound that may be foreign to Vince’s past work, but instantly engaging to anyone who’d tune in to “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” for the latest “phone tap” sketch as they battled traffic on the 91 freeway.

FM! is one of Vince’s shortest projects, including EPs like Prima Donna, but contains more potential hits than any of his other projects to date. From “Feels Like Summer” to “Outside” to “Relay,” the beats upend every expectation of standard Vince Staples audio chaos by injecting bouncy, hand-clapping, west coast slap to his fatalistic, hyper-aware gangsta rap sensibilities. Simply put, they sound more like the G-Funk he would have grown up on, slapping 92.3 The Beat and Power 106 in his handset radio on the school bus. FM! is still laced with the sinister paranoia of earlier works, but now it’s shot through with doses of sunshine that disorient and diffuse the perception of encroaching doom.

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