Album Review: Vince Staples – FM!

By Tarein Phillips, Contributor
[Def Jam; 2018]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “Feels Like Summer”, “Outside!”, “New earlsweatshirt – Interlude”

On the same night where Swizz Beatz, Metro Boomin and Takeoff were set to release their newest albums, the prince of Long Beach and America’s most beloved former-Crip, Vince Staples, shined the brightest releasing FM!. This 22-minute compilation of bangers was mostly produced by the caucasian who I am personally choosing to save during the hypothetical race war, Kenny Beats. FM! is arguably Staples’ best work as he continues to grow as an artist and prove that he can stand among today’s crop of rappers, and in many ways, outshine them.

Read more: Album Review: BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence

Right off the bat, FM! turns on the radio show Big Boy’s Neighborhood to start the opener “Feels Like Summer”, which features the millennial king of hooks, Ty Dolla $ign. The song starts with the sound of a radio changing stations before it jumps to a small excerpt of all the songs on the album. Vince genuinely provides what feels like an actual FM radio experience and unleashes a creative concept that sets the tone for the entire album. During the song, Staples describes a summer he spent in his hometown of Long Beach that included the bright moments of parties, but also moments where shit got real. Glocks were drawn, and homies were killed. That is reflected in the first verse when Staples raps, “Summertime in the LB wild / We gon’ party ‘til the sun or the guns come out.” Nonetheless, all of those events are what defined Vince Staples’ summer in his neighborhood.     

Right when “Feels Like Summer” is about to end, the radio MC (Vince himself) says “Let’s go outside!”, effortlessly flowing into his next song, “Outside!”. This low-tempo and bass-filled track highlights when it was time for Vince to literally go outside and experience the life of the streets. Staples opens the verse with what to expect once stepping off your porch and into gangster territory. “Broad day, I’m ‘round your way / SK, come out, let’s play / Draco, that’s a young n**** gun / Pull a trey five seven watch young n****s run.” The chorus goes on to ask “Who ‘bout that life? Nighttime, who ‘bout to die?” These are pivotal questions for Staples and the comrades and enemies who surround him.

Vince’s most-anticipated feature on FM! was his friend and fellow beloved rapper Earl Sweatshirt, who took a break from dropping heat due to personal hardships regarding being sent to boarding school, his mental health and the loss of his father. Fans were delighted to hear about Vince and Earl having a collaboration due to their past songs together like “Burgundy”, “Hive” and “Wool”. Staples made sure to have Earl as the star of the song, with Staples not being featured on it at all. Far from a lengthy track, “New earlsweatshirt – Interlude” is 23 seconds long, but it is one of the most fire tracks due to its anticipation and delivery. The track opens with Earl saying, “By momma crib / It’s a lot of Crips (Crips) / I reported nothing, n****, that’s just how it is / You be on that tough shit, it ain’t caught up with you yet.” Although it’s not a full song, the interlude does its job of satisfying fans who were excited to hear Earl again and those who anticipate his upcoming release. This opportunity not only helped solidify FM! as a great project but shows how Vince Staples will always stay loyal to his homies.

With other collaborations including E-40, Kamaiyah, Kehlani, and Tyga – all of whom are also notable California artists – Vince shows an appreciation for where he’s from, and FM! gives listeners a perfect preview of it. Through presenting the album in a radio format, Staples goes above and beyond to prove that he isn’t a one-trick pony and has multiple tricks up his sleeves. Although he may have once tweeted that “the national anthem don’t even slap”, FM! definitely does.

Listen here:

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