Review Summary: watch me do the same old thing, do the same old thing
Around the time of Big Fish Theory
I started to realise it was becoming more fun to listen to Vince Staples talk than it was to hear him rap. One of hip-hop's most incisive and funniest personalities, Staples is a delight in conversation whether it's musing on the pitfalls of the industry on Hot Ones or calling out bullshit on Twitter. The man has an uncanny ability to render complex feelings and observations into bite-sized snatches of cutting humour, which leads me to wonder: where the hell did all that shit go when he sits down to write a rap？
Hard as it is to remember in the days of "is your house big？ is your car nice？ is your girl fine？ fu
ck her all night？" - the replay value of which is a primer for the quality of pretty much every line on FM!
- but Staples used to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Earl Sweatshirt as one of the greatest hood poets. While Earl turned inwards to crumbling, dessicated beats to examine his own struggling mental health, Vince took the corrosive humour of the "Hive" era and hardened it by degrees, until the misleadingly named Summertime '06
practically sneers at the listener when they hit play. Walls of icy 808s and snapping drums painted pictures of desolate downtowns while the rapper confronted the world's shortcomings as thin code for confronting his own. When the walls came down, as on "Summertime", the honest self-examination ranks among some of the most brutally honest in modern hip-hop: "hope you understand - they never taught me how to be a man, only how to be a shooter".
Then Big Fish Theory
. Then gorgeous beats doing a good job of glossing over how little substance the lyrics had to offer. Then "Party People" as a small reminder of the acidic rhymes Vince can still spit when he tries, a high watermark by which the likes of "745" and "SAMO" look downright childish and dumb. That brings us up to date, give or take a "Get the Fuck Off My Dick", a track very much of a piece with FM!
's meta-joking-at-self because of a lack of anything else interesting to say. I know you're thinking this was a long contextual walk to get to my point, but it was kind of necessary given how little I actually can think of to say about FM!
one way or the other. The beats are fine (give or take a fucking Nyan Cat sample in 2018, which, yeah), albeit noticeably thin compared to Big Fish Theory
's club-rap innovation or Summertime
's echoing wasteland. The radio station concept feels like scant justification for making an album of songs that feel over just after they've begun, although the Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga interludes both serve to strengthen the overall concept and break up the repetitiveness of Vince's songs. As for the man himself, he's still on autopilot, hinting at his larger talents with lines of subtle darkness - "we gon' party till the sun or the guns come out" - but never bothering with the follow through when a glossy pop chorus will do instead.
It's hard not to feel disappointment with a release as slim and scant as FM!
from a fascinating artist like Staples. This is not to say that there's anything wrong with a short, fun release as a stopgap between bigger and more interesting projects, but Vince has demonstrated with the likes of Hell Can Wait
that he can bring his full personality and talent to what would otherwise be throwaway EPs. FM!
might have personality, but it's of the more obnoxious and self-obsessed "Get the Fuck Off My Dick" variety, and there's simply not enough quality on display to justify its own brief and largely annoying existence. Next.