Thank you, Vince. Although there is an unbelievable amount of music that is put out every week, only a few albums stick out and stay in a daily rotation the way FM! does.
The album is classic Vince; FM! is groovy, hard and chilling with lyrics that constantly remind you about his old stomping grounds of Long Beach, CA’s northside. However, much unlike Vince’s recent projects, this album distinguishes itself from the rest of his discography; the album plays like a 22-minute radio segment from L.A. legend Big Boy’s “The Neighborhood.” Aside from the Big Boy adlibs, Vince also drops snippets of new content from Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga. This album is more than a compilation of solid tracks: it’s an experience.
On opener “Feels like Summer” Vince raps about the strict binary of Long Beach’s social life: it’s either a fun time or a dangerous time, there is no in-between. At one point Staples raps, “We gon’ party ’til the sun or the guns come out.” He warns the listener that life in Long Beach is harder than what it is portrayed by saying “Do you really wanna know about some gangsta shit/ In the city, sittin’ pretty where it’s dangerous.” He tells us that listening to rap does not make us truly aware of what it is like to live in an area crippled with gang violence. At the end of the day, Vince reminds us that he is here to get paid while rapping about Long Beach. On “Don’t Get Chipped” fellow Angeleno Jay Rock makes Vince’s message clear on the hook, rapping, “I ain’t on that medication, it’s only money that I’m chasing/ that is all, represent my location.” Vince Staples has been a realist since the days he could hang n’ bang; his entire social media persona has been built around the fact that regardless of what he does creatively, his roots still lie near Ramona Park, Long Beach.
The best section of the album starts from the appropriately-titled “New earlsweatshirt (Interlude).” After a quick radio introduction, the 23-second track enters as something that can only be described as “typical Earl”; unbelievable drums are matched with a flow that only Earl can come up with it. In addition “Brand New Tyga (Interlude)” plays a similar role to the Earl interlude; Vince often on FM! shouts out other West Coast artists to make this project one of his most California-centric projects to date.
Perhaps the two best songs of the album are “Run the Bands” and “FUN!”, both solo joints that air back-to-back with each other. “Run The Bands” features a memorable chorus that Vince showcases everything from Vince’s nuclear confidence to his laidback wit and poise. “FUN!” is the album’s best-produced track. Jumpstart producer Kenny Beats and Hagler crafted “FUN!” with a bouncy melody and clap-heavy percussion, making another yet another West Coast anthem without even realizing it.
FM! isn’t that long and, looking at his social media prescence, he does not intend for it to be an album. Nonetheless, FM! reminds us of Staples’ talent, consistency, and fun-house approach to hip-hop music. All we can hope for now is that he continues to give listeners amazing content while still staying true to himself. Once again, thank you, Vince.