Review Summary: Authenticity at a time when we need it most in the genre.
I know that I'm not the only one that questions the authenticity of hip-hop currently. It's hard to envision Rick Ross running a drug empire, and in general the exorbitant statements are becoming more and more unbelievable. Sure, it's fun to listen to the ridiculous wordplay associated with the ostentatious claims of wealth, and suspension of disbelief is practically required for enjoyment of the genre. However, there is a reason why groups like A Tribe Called Quest struck such a chord with so many listeners. Hip-hop was bred out of the necessity to tell a grimy story that was being ignored due to the fact that it was too stark for most. This is why it's nice to watch as groups like A$AP Mob and Flatbush Zombies ascend to popularity; the drug-addled lifestyle might not be particularly original, but it's certainly more veritable. Vince Staples isn't afraid of honest portrayal, and it takes a step even further into more realistic territory. In an age when more rappers possess multi-million dollar drug empires than is financially possible, it's nice to hear Vince rap about his past with obvious authenticity. Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2
is simply a continuation of Staples' brand of storytelling, and it's quite obvious that he is getting exponentially better. The trials and tribulations of life in the hood rarely feels as close (or as real, for that matter) as it does when he recounts what it was like growing up with a drug dealing father ("Progressive 3") or what his first love feels like years later ("Earth Science").
It's hard to find issue with Staples lyrically, but when comparing his last LP Stolen Youth
to Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2
, the disparity is fairly evident. Whatever your opinion may be of Mac Miller as a rapper, his production work on Stolen Youth
helped catapult Vince's storytelling into one of the best albums of the year. The production and beats feel recycled and uninspired, which makes the 28 minute run-time feel much longer than it should. The guest spots also helped provide the album with much-needed diversity, and Shyne Coldchain
features two very minimal guest artists that hinder more than they help. Jhenel Aiko's contribution to the song "Oh You Scared" is repetitive and trance-inducing. It ends up being a perplexing listen as a whole, if only because songs like "Humble" should be a contender for song of the year. Instead, it is brought down by the tired and boring hook; the verses are near perfect but segue into a very
cliched "*** you, *** you, *** you, and *** you". It's hard to say at this point whether Staples just cannot carry an entire LP by himself, or if he needs more time to mature. The more straightforward tracks on Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2
are the ones that shine the brightest, and one fact can't be ignored: Vince Staples has never been better lyrically than he is now, and there is no reason to think that he will slow down any time soon.