Vince Staples’ career has been filled with an avant-garde identity sonically, but with more cohesion and depth than pretentious artists from other mediums. As he grew into his own, his sound kept a tight leash on his west coast roots before exploring these visceral production styles on his major-label debut, Summertime ‘06, and progressing on subsequent releases, like the deep house, IDM, and electronic influences on Big Fish Theory. Both albums brought a plethora of producers to create these sounds that weren’t advantageous on a broader spectrum, but he excelled. He continues to do so on the self-titled Vince Staples, which keeps the motifs focused as he delivers an amalgamation of new perspectives about life; specifically what has changed in the purview from events in his life throughout the years.
Working with producers like the late SOPHIE, DJ Dahi, and GTA, which brought a variety of fluid EDM sounds to polish any underlying hip-hop undertones, Vince Staples has been able to find equilibrium in the sounds. It has continued with his last album, FM!, and the new Vince Staples, as EDM turned Hip-Hop producer Kenny Beats takes control. As evident with the rappers he has worked with prior, Kenny’s production style, which mixes conceptual sounds of a more realized and less poppy hip-hop tracks of yesterday and giving it a modern twist. It humbles Vince’s artistry, as he doesn’t try to implement too much sonic complexity, and takes it back to his Shyne Coldchain days, where the melodic-soul undertones create a new sense of depth.
The self-titled album has us taking a trip with Vince Staples as he reminisces about home and his life growing up within a gang ecosystem and before music became the focal point. He takes us through loops, discussing ambitions and desires at the time and exploiting it as a way to intimidate the listener. But this comes across positively without glamourizing gang life. For Vince, it was more than just that; his anger ran through a stream of regrets and depression.
Vince carries a lot on his mind and he lets it out on a silver plate. A lot of deals with post-dated re-evaluations of his life; specifically his youth and adolescence during his time as a Crip affiliated gang member. On “Sundown Town,” Vince reminisces about his days as a Naughty Nasty Gangster Crips, describing how his world was like the realized style of storytelling where night becomes a complete 180 in the equation of normality. He progresses to expand on these ideologies, breaking conventions of the perpetuated feelings that come from fame and success. On the subsequent track, “The Shining,” he fights with his subconscious with some of these ideas of death and attraction, despite known hesitation of the truth.
Vince Staples has a constant battle with dualities, whether he is fighting them or accepting them. At the mid-point, this duality is shown through two degrees of emotions from Vince. It’s through three tracks that fully define the heavier weight on his mind. In the track “Taking Trips,” Vince lambasts about life on the road, touring and meeting these groupie women, though his emotions come off a bit broken and distant, showing a sense of doubt before reassuring his confidence through lines about bringing packing heat and understanding own worth. But on “Take Me Home,” Vince gives us a look into his philanthropic output, which involves community reform and finding ways to make it easier to drown out the violence as drives around neighborhoods. These themes and topics make an impact on him due to his aforementioned past.
In between those tracks, Vince Staples incorporates an interlude that defines his being. It’s his mother describing lying on the stand to defend his father and In seeking out the person whom Vince’s father was convicted for attempting to murder. Being called “The Apple & The Tree,” it plays off the metaphor off the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, however, Vince Staples fell and landed straight down. Despite falling onto a path akin to his father, the commendable qualities about them shined more like their focus and degree of loyalty they have for a family in a generalized sense (i.e. other families like his gang mates).
Vince Staples continues the approach Vince has had with his music, as he tries to give more life and depth, lyrically, opposed to sonically. The 22-minute runtime is only a smokescreen for Vince, as it has been a crutch for him to fully envelope his sound with the right jabs at each angle so no page is left unturned. He feels and sounds fully realized on the album, even delivering unique moments where the flex track feels like a member of the arching concept on it. His flex comes across as more humbling. And as it seems, it is a new direction for Vince that carries over the strength of his vocal conduction that hasn’t been heard on a solo project since summertime ‘06.
Vince Staples gives us Vince delivering his most personal work to date in a melancholic and depth-filled album. For some, the album may deter you due to its length and others may be deterred due to the uncanniness of the sound. Though it isn’t uncanny as Vince has been everywhere and on different instrumentals, this subdued direction isn’t anything new. It is an album that is as fresh as they come, especially with the wrought trend going on in hip-hop today and I highly recommend you give it a listen and more than once.