Vince Staples – FM! Album Review

Story posted November 8, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment by Jerome Taylor.

FM! is the third studio album from Long Beach, California rapper Vince Staples. On this project, Vince
returns to his more gangster-rap roots as opposed to his last album, Big Fish Theory, where he was more
experimental and used electronic music to bring his stories to life. FM! sees Vince use the legendary hip-
hop radio station, Big Boy’s Neighborhood to weave this project together. As Big Boy sets the scene of
the stereotypical and mainstream perception of the everlasting summer in California, Vince juxtaposes
this with the darker reality that comes along with the sun always being out.

On the intro of the album, “Feels like Summer,” Big Boy sets the scene of the happy and beautiful
summertime in California only for Vince to immediately tell listeners this narrative is a façade when he
raps, “Summertime in the LB wild/ We gon party til the sun or the guns come out.” This type of
juxtaposition will remain evident for the rest of the album. On several tracks, we see Vince rapping about
dark realities over seemingly fun and up-beat production that will leave listeners ready to dance only to
find out that Vince’s lyrical content is not meant to be danced to. On “Feels Like Summer,” because of
the combination of a smooth Ty Dollar $ign chorus and a bouncy beat, many will think this song can take
Vince’s music into the mainstream only to realize this song is not anything close to a feel good song.
In different ways, Vince executes several concepts on FM! that he has previously rapped about.

“Outside!” is a chant worthy song that will surely be a crowd favorite at concerts and festivals, but it
should also make listeners remember Vince’s pointed “All these white folks chanting when I asked ‘em
where my n***** at,” off of his 2015 album Summertime ’06. On “Outside!,” Vince asks “who’s 'bout that
life?,” knowing that the fans chanting these lyrics more than likely couldn’t fathom the life he is talking
about, which is evident when he raps “White fans at the Coachella, hey” on “Feels Like Summer.” Vince also
brings up another theme that remains constant in his music and public life, mostly via twitter, and that
is his conflicted black consciousness that has been shaped by his upbringing. The best example of this is
on the E-40 assisted track, “Fun!,” when he raps, “My black is beautiful, but I'll still shoot at you, dawg.”

Another concept Vince explores is his more personal relationship with death on “Tweakin,’” when he
raps “But when Johnny died all I had was shows booked,” which is an example of how his celebrity status now
affects the way he has to deal with the deaths of his close friends.

The production on the project is entirely handled by Kenny Beats or Hagler, who both create a modern
west coast sound for Vince to rap over throughout the album. Most of the production involves speaker-
rattling bass that is accented by eerie keyboards. The production also adds to the mainstream viability of
the whole project, but some of the hard hitting beats will only be appreciated by those who enjoy
gangster rap.

Over the course of the 11-track album, there are multiple features that include Ty Dolla $ign, Kehlani, E-
40, Jay Rock and other artists hailing from California to help create the California summer
environment. Out of the 11-tracks, Vince only raps on 8, as the album contains one-track-length radio
skit and snippet interludes from two vastly different rappers, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga. The length of the
album doesn’t surpass thirty minutes, which begs listeners to return to the project several times and
appears to be a part of a trend emerging in hip-hop to combat the stream-bloating albums that can
contain over twenty tracks.

FM! is an impressive album by Vince Staples that does a great job of creating an enjoyable album that
can also be delved into like few albums can in the genre today. This project adds to Vince’s already
stellar discography that should be considered one of the strongest since the mid-2010s.

Rating: 8/10



Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email