When you see a new Vince Staples album that’s going to be produced by one of the best in the game in Kenny Beats, one would expect the record to go absolutely crazy with eccentric instrumentals and Staples flowing in a way that’s loud, hard-hitting and directly in your face similar to other artists that Kenny has worked with like Denzel Curry and Rico Nasty.
This is what we got on Staples’ last album in FM!, which was a collaboration with Kenny as well.
Instead, expectations are subverted as we get an album that’s quite laid back in its sound, but in a dark sense as Staples raps about his prior gang life and the way it has affected his psyche and family ties to gangs.
While the topics are nothing new in Staples’ discography, this self-titled record has a melancholic vibe to it with Staples describing his rough upbringing in North Long Beach, California.
“Whenever I miss those days. Visit my Crips that lay under the ground, runnin’ around, we was them kids that played.”
These few lines on the opening track “ARE YOU WITH THAT?” puts a lot into perspective of just how rough others lives are without any fault of their own. I would never want to know what it would be like if I had childhood friends that weren’t around anymore due to gang violence.
This track is followed up by “LAW OF AVERAGES”, which is the lead single to the album. We have a dreary, dark instrumental with a deep bass layered over some rousing vocals from Reske. With Staples’ rise to fame, he talks about how he just wants to be left alone with so many people accosting him for financial help on the track.
“SUNDOWN TOWN” has a more chill vibe to it with some faint guitar layered over the instrumental. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not a sound I was expecting on this album. It’s not one of my favorites on the record, but not a bad track at all.
As I was still waiting and hoping to get at least one banger on the record, “THE SHINING” and “TAKING TRIPS” began to drain my overall interest in the record. Staples is quite monotone on both, but I will say that the latter is livelier than the former.
Where the context of this record really hits is on “THE APPLE & THE TREE” in which we have Staples’ mother describing how she lied on the stand to defend Staples’ father, who was convicted for attempted murder. The connection here is the loyalty Staples’ mother had for the father while Vince showed loyalty to his family and fellow gang members no matter what, so the apple truly never falls far from the tree.
“TAKE ME HOME” gives us a plucky guitar now layered over the main instrumental. This track ties back well to the previous minute and I do enjoy the hook from Fousheé. It’s a tried and true R&B song.
I’d say the album closes fairly strong with “LIL FADE” and “MHM.”
Both tracks hit the same notes you’ve heard throughout the record, but they are easily the bounciest of the songs on the album and, in a bit of a surprise, I think this album would’ve benefited more from a lengthier set because it seems like this quick, 22-minute run was hinting at more down the road.
That’s not to say it isn’t a complete album, but even something around 35-40 minutes would’ve served the collaborative minds of Kenny and Vince even more than this project teased.
This self-titled, sixth album from Vince Staples is a sweet, but short stay even for his standards.
Richest Tracks: “ARE YOU WITH THAT?”, “LAW OF AVERAGES”, “THE APPLE & THE TREE”, “TAKE ME HOME”, “LIL FADE”, “MHM”
Worst Track: “TAKING TRIPS“
LISTEN TO THE ALBUM: