The Lowdown: Vince Staples is one of hip-hop’s sweethearts. With the success he’s gained by simply being himself, Staples seems to realize he doesn’t need to refine his raw sound to release radio-friendly songs. FM! is an extremely crude, yet beautiful album that features the west coast rapper taking over the city’s airwaves with his music. In 22 minutes, he curates his own version of “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” by threading his songs together with listener call-ins, adding interludes from Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga, and even inserting a giveaway segment. These elements give the audience a real listening experience and act as the glue that cements the creative themes of the album.
The Good: It’s always an admirable act when rappers dedicate some part of their music to show love to their city. From the lyrics to the album cover and contributing voices, FM! has “California” scribbled all over it. One noticeable thing about this project is the radio feel, which explains the title of the album. LA-based radio host Big Boy brings that radio spirit and sets the tone and mood for the album by describing the relaxing atmosphere of a west coast summer. This vibe is fresh, engaging, and a pleasure to listen to.
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Staples is throwing a block party for the gangsters. On “FUN!”, he spits hot one-liners like “My black is beautiful, but I’ll still shoot at you” and “Christian Dior? I’m Crippin’ Bior.” His heart goes black on “Outside!” as he digs deep into his bag of gun talk. One can tell he’s the real deal when he says: “Niggas know the deal when I pull up in the pill/ I’ma, I’ma, I’ma heat a nigga grill/ I’ma, I’ma, I’ma go in for the kill.” Other tracks like “Don’t Get Chipped”, “Relay”, and “No Bleedin” find Staples bursting with the same gangsta energy.
The Bad: When an artist makes an album for nobody but themselves and a subset of their fans, they stand the risk of losing a part of their audience. This isn’t the case for Staples on this 11-track project. However, in terms of instantly memorable tracks, there’s little to hold on to as skits, interludes, and the radio funfair take up a lot of the album.
The Verdict: In Vince Staples’ California-centered world, it’s summer year-round. FM! features the rapper in his raw form and representing his love for the west coast. Whether you decide to hit play in chronological order or skip around, this album will have you bobbing your head at any point. FM! is a sunny day that not even being stuck in LA traffic can ruin.
Essential Tracks: “FUN!”, “Outside!”, and “Run the Bands”