After a three-year hiatus, Vince Staples is finally back with his self-titled fourth studio album. With ten tracks, no major features, and complete production from the one and only Kenny Beats, can Vince prove the wait was worth it?
Welcoming us back to Vince’s world, we have the spacey trap anthem “ARE YOU WITH THAT?”. Covering the basics of street life and the mental trauma that comes with it, Staples welcomes us to the trouble and chaos he has been exposed to for his entire life in a simplistic but well-presented manner. While the topical execution on this track isn’t anything mindboggling, “LAW OF AVERAGES” picks things up with the 28-year-old contemplating which friends and women genuinely care about him and which are only associated with him for the money, fame, and power. In this very moment, Vince opens up a new side of himself as we see his every personality trait flip. Usually confident, over the top, and witty, we now see this once careless figure weary, paranoid, and tentative on his every action.
Even the more braggadocious cuts like “SUNDOWN TOWN” and “TAKING TRIPS” indicate that whatever is left of Vince’s old personality is being sucked away by this much wiser yet much sadder version we are face to face with now. Moments like “THE SHINING” further these ideals as Vince’s wartorn pen is used to show the hopelessness around many, including himself in the culture he’s surrounded in. Through his pain-ridden storytelling, which can be best summed up by the line “we dying broke or live with broken hearts,” all of Vince’s demons come full circle in this heartwrenching track. Feeling helpless and increasingly guilty as he’s one of the few surviving in a world of death, Staples comes to the realization that he’s the true victim of this vicious cycle. Even the skit, “THE APPLE & THE TREE,” plays a key role in pushing these ideas forward as it plays a voicemail that showcases a woman talking about lying at the witness stand to protect her father, who shot someone from going to jail. Later in the monologue, we find out that this same lady is carrying a gun with her while in the middle of a court trial, which shows the never-ending cycle of life and crime that most people around Vince gets involved with.
“TAKE ME HOME” may be the most scarring of all these deep cuts, as Vince’s lifeless vocals lead us in a narration about how close to the edge he is. Stating that he’s accepted the reality of dying, we listen to the rapper’s life spiral out of control in this eerie tale that masterfully depicts what it’s like to be depressed. Despite its minimalism and simplicity, “LIL FADE” is a brilliant track as through broken phrases and fragmented thoughts, Vince shows how much pain he’s truly in. Adding a string of light to this otherwise colorless experience, the skit “LAKEWOOD MALL” features another voicemail that uses the tail of a robbery to try to empower the youth. Showing that most who spiral down the life of crime never recover, the faint but soulful instrumental is used to glorify the story’s value and challenge the listener to think ahead. Sending the project to a close, “MHM” feels most comparable to the old Vince Staple’s as his more charismatic delivery is used to paint his crazed memories of growing up in North Long Beach. Using this firey anthem to illustrate the utter and total chaos of what he was brought up in, Vince puts a close to this record in the most striking way possible.
Walking away from Vince Staples and I’m honestly shocked at how emotionally scarring this album was. Being a rapper known for his humor and wittiness, seeing this hopeless and distraught version of Vince really challenges your preconceived notions of society and the world as a whole. While the execution of this record does lack a little with its meer 22 minute run time, the ideas presented still offer more than enough to walk away with. Going forward, Vince Staples has stated he has another album coming out later in the year and I cant even imagine the direction he’s headed in.
- Vince Staple’s stylistic switch is risky and rewarding
- Focus on Vince’s inner depression due to the personal losses he’s taken are executed well
- Minimal production is used perfectly to show the pain in Staple’s thoughts and feelings
- The darkness of each track is so eerie and heartwrenching
- Ideas weren’t executed to their full potential
- Short tracklist leaves ends untied
Written By: Mr. Fantastic