Vince Staples’ early works earned him notoriety for his ability to inform the violent desperation in his native Long Beach with his banal storytelling. Horror became mundane over his first three studio efforts, even as his sonic palettes progressed.
Big Fish Theory saw the rapper stretching this attitude into the world of electronica, stretching his deft lyricism over SOPHIE’s plasticky synths and metallic clanks. His follow-up, FM! restructured the album into the form of a 22-minute radio show. Both takes maintained Staples’ sober, sun-bleached vignettes of life in Long Beach. On his latest self-titled offering, the Vince Staples theatre is newly informed by dour sermons.
Staples’ ability and intention here are as sharp as we’ve come to expect, but come with a harrowing shift in tonality. Production comes courtesy of longtime collaborator Kenny Beats, whose waterlogged drums and hazy guitar samples provide ample diving ground for subconscious swimming.
In a statement about the record, Staples says “I feel like I’ve been trying to tell the same story. As you go on in life, your point of view changes.” Where Vince previously languored as a bard, presenting even-handed accounts of the trauma and acts of justice he bore witness to, now he appears above it, as a guiding conscience, complete with interstitials of moralistic PSAs and chiding voicemails from mama. The comedian is in, but the joke isn’t funny anymore.