West Coast rapper Vince Staples has been getting some attention since his 2014 Ep ‘Hell Can Wait’ and was even a part of the XXL Freshman Class of 2015 alongside Og Maco, Fetty Wap and more. Many have been heavily anticipating his debut album, and for the most part, he delivered.
This album is carried by its amazing instrumentals. The beats feel passionate but confined, like an insane asylum patient in a strait jacket running in his padded cell. They are smooth, eerie, bass heavy, catchy, and always stay on the forefront. It seems like at any moment the album could explode, but sadly, it never does. NO I.D handles a large portion of the production on this album, and if you do not know this man by name; you have definitely heard his work. He has produced songs for Kayne West, G-Unit, and Jay Z. Even Clams Casino came out the woodwork to produce a few songs on this album, including my personal favourite ‘Norf Norf’. The only song not handled by these two is ‘Senortia’ which is produced by Christian Rich, who has done work for Drake, Earl Sweatshirt and Chris Brown. Vince was not messing around with the production on this album and it shows. The album is consistent with its production until ‘Might Be Wrong’ which slows the album down and acts like an intermission but the song is like hitting a brick wall after a 100m sprint, it is easily the least enjoyable song on the album.
It is Vince’s lyricism that seems to drag the album by its heels. The album title and all the promotion seemed like this was Vince’s album to show you all the pain, everything he had to go through. I left the album feeling like I don’t know anything more about this man. I still don’t know what was so important about the summer of ’06. He tackles so much in his lyrics and it is a shame they just didn’t connect with me. He seems to reflect on his life and look retrospectively at police, hood violence, race among others and really paints the picture of the world Vince had to grow up in. Lyrics like ‘What's the price for a life in this dark world? Couple hundred where I come from, how you sleep when the sun down?’ In “Surf” is a great example of the world building that Vince is able to create through his lyrics. He seems to build this world around him so vivid and realistic, but when it comes to inserting himself he seems so vague, as if he is scared police may use his lyrics against him (maybe the case of Anthony Elonis is fresh in his mind?). However his nihilistic, gritty and violent view of his lifestyle and those around him is what separates him from the typical gangster rap tagline, putting him in a sort of grey area.
However this is not to discredit his flow, which is fast and adaptable. He seems to be able to keep a solid flow over every beat, even the slower, more atmospheric ones. Another aspect that I was let down by was his hooks. The majority of the hooks are unimaginative and pretty boring and I feel this album would have been much stronger if he was able to write better hooks, songs like ‘Lift Me Up’ and ‘Get Paid’ have some really disappointing hooks.
This album will be the best produced album you will hear all year but Vince’s sometimes lazy and uninspiring lyrics/hooks and some boring features let the album down a little bit. The album consists of two discs with 10 songs on each, going for a total of around an hour. I feel that Vince struggled to handle this album all by himself and that a few more important features could have helped. Vince paints a vivid view of ‘the zoo’ but fails to give the album the punch it needed. However this is a highly promising release, from a highly promising artist.
Written by Rhys Prka
Fav Tracks: Norf Norf, Senorita, Surf, Get Paid
Least Fav: Might Be Wrong
Release Date: June 30th
Def Jam Recordings.