With little notice, Vince Staples returned this month with his fifth studio album, FM!, surprising fans.
This year has been one of the best years for quality releases in hip-hop albums, especially from culture heavyweights like Kanye West, Drake, Jay-Z and Nas. Now, the 25-year-old Long Beach, California, representer is here to provide his perspective and wave the flag for his city, his Crip gang set and today’s youth.
FM!, which dropped Nov. 1, is a great concept album. Staples enlisted the Big Boy’s Neighborhood team — the long-running, nationally syndicated hip-hop radio show in Los Angeles — to host their show throughout the album. He previously mentioned in several interviews about the lack of radio play he receives as an artist, so this 22-minute project feels like the listener is roaming inside one of Staples’ dreams where his music is dominating the station during a lovely southern California day underneath the sun and surrounded by gun smoke.
This is the third album in four years Staples has released. The charismatic emcee has a lot to say in any setting, so listeners will be rewinding and hitting repeat as the album plays to catch his infectious rhymes.
The FM! album cover pays homage to Green Day’s 1994 Dookie album, but instead of bombs dropping on the city, a tsunami is hitting the beach. Staples said he’s not familiar with the popular rock band or its music, but a member of his team loves Green Day, and the cover was his way to show his appreciation to her.
The album is cohesive and bangs throughout but definitely leaves the listener wanting more. Staples said this release is just to give fans something while he completes his new full album coming at the top of 2019. Until then, we have FM!, a fall release taking you back to the summer.
The album kicks off with “Feels like Summer” featuring Ty Dolla $ign with Staples rapping, “Summertime in the LB wild/We gon’ party ’til the sun or guns come out.”
Compton rap artist Jay Rock shows up to deliver the hook on “Don’t Get Chipped,” and Bay Area legend E40 appears on “FUN!” rapping one of his classic lines, “Tell ’em when to go,” and a few other bars while Staples spits.
The elusive Odd Future emcee Earl Sweatshirt appears on a 23-second interlude, and Tyga appears on a 35-second interlude giving the listener snippets of new singles from each artist during the radio show. Earl and Tyga are Staples’ close friends and artists he has championed or defended in the past.
As one of the best new emcees to enter the rap arena in the last seven years, Staples is becoming more famous for his interviews than his albums. It’s not because he releases sub-par music. In fact, all his albums have been critically acclaimed, even with their dense eerie street subject matters and stern lyrics that touch on the plight of young Black youth facing challenges in the community. He deals with issues such as gangs, school dropouts, high homicidal rates and the lack of financial responsibility.
These topics give the perception of Staples as a serious individual, but he actually has one of the best senses of humor (albeit dry) in hip-hop, making him the media darling for all hot topics. It was Staples, after all, who boldly said, “The national anthem don’t even slap” last year on Twitter. That was his critique of the nation’s displaced anger toward Colin Kaepernick’s protest and how weak he thinks the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” are as well as his suggestion that maybe it’s time for an updated and more inclusive rendition.
FM! is dialed into the conversation for album of the year even with its short length of play, adding to the “is it still an album if it’s less than 30 minutes” debate. The debate started after Kanye West produced five projects this summer all clocking in at 26 minutes or less with only seven tracks. Fans are traditionally used to albums being 13 tracks or more and typically running 50 minutes or longer.
Staples simply wanted to deliver the project he wanted to hear and, in turn, gave fans another epic ride through the streets of Long Beach and possibly his best project to date.