Just over a year on from the critical triumph that was Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples makes a surprise but welcome return with FM!, a fun concept album/EP/mixtape/whatever the fuck it is. While some artists’ side projects between main projects can fade into insignificance, in 22 brief minutes Staples still manages to make a lasting impression.
Although this project is short, Vince packs in the creativity we have come to expect from him. FM! plays out as a radio programme, with a few skits that resemble radio transitions, with the running theme being Vince urging listeners to call in to win tickets to see Kehlani live. With how short the run-time is it is impressive that Staples manages to tie the few tracks included together with a plot making the project feel more cohesive.
As far as the actual musical content the Long-beach rapper delivers, FM! contains some of his catchiest material to date. While the overall themes and sound don’t stray too far from where Big Fish Theory left off, this is not a bad thing at all as we get more of the sharp production we have come to expect from Vince Staples. From opening track Feels Like Summer, Staples continues to demonstrate why he is streets ahead of his competition. One element that is perhaps improved since his last album is the hooks. On this track and throughout the album the choruses pack a punch and refuse to be forgotten.
Thematically, this is familiar territory for Vince, though again this is no weakness as his takes on gang violence are always sincere and compelling. Once again he finds the balance between humour and addressing important issues and it creates a perfect blend of a project that is a fun listen but also a more rewarding listen if you so desire.
As with Big Fish Theory, the highlight of FM! is without a doubt the production. From the sinister bass of Relay with the accompaniment of Vince‘s snarling delivery or the bouncing beat of FUN! that almost sounds out of place but, when paired with Vince, fits perfectly and makes for another stand out moment. With each release, Staples is becoming more and more creative and exciting and even with what could have been a throwaway project, he shows no signs of phoning it in.
For what this project is, it doesn’t leave much to be desired except more of the same from Vince Staples. In fact, the only weak spots on FM! are when Vince is sidelined: Jay Rock, Kehlani and E40 all hold their own but Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga’s interludes underwhelm. On the whole, Vince Staples reminds us of what he is capable of and if this is what he does in his spare time then his next output is one to be excited for. – ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)