Turning inward on his most introspective outing to date, rapper Vince Staples delivers another potent burst of lyrical storytelling on his self-titled fourth effort. Like 2018's quick shot FM!, Vince Staples only needs 22 minutes to get the job done, packing a short autobiography's worth of tales into ten tracks that revisit his younger, lawless days in North Long Beach. Produced entirely by Kenny Beats, this trip down memory lane is deceptively catchy, revealing layer after layer as the beats hit deeper and simple melodies combine to create a laid-back vibe that entrances like a sunset over languid waves. Falling somewhere between Frank Ocean's relaxed but soothing early work and Kendrick Lamar's technically proficient street tales, Vince Staples navigates the paranoia and anxiety, sex and violence, and the struggle of street survival, all set to Kenny Beats' languid and oddly soothing backing. Highlight "ARE YOU WITH THAT?" encapsulates the project's entire thesis, providing insight into Staples' past atop distorted carnival-like atmospherics. Other standouts include the midtempo "SUNDOWN TOWN," the cracking "TAKING TRIPS," and the hypnotic, guitar-strumming "TAKE ME HOME" with R&B singer Fousheé lending vocals on the chorus. Though the set feels somewhat sleepy upon first listen, repeat visits reward listeners with Staples' depth and wit, cementing Vince Staples as a simple yet focused statement from one of the West Coast's most relevant voices.
(Digital Download - Blacksmith Records / Motown #)
Review by Neil Z. Yeung
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