The closest work from this year that one can compare Vince Staples’s FM! to, stylistically, is Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You: Both are colorful, irreverent portraits of the black experience centered in West Coast cities (FM! in and around Long Beach, Riley’s film in Oakland) that have deeper political messages lying underneath the vibrancy and quirk. But both works suffer from the same fatal flaw: Their theoretical approaches hit dead-ends quickly, as their auteurs run out of new things to say and gradually concern themselves mainly with maintaining an ascetic appearance. While FM! does have some inspired comedic moments — including lovable cornball Tyga popping up to clown on himself — they tend to stand-out for their signification more than the actual music does.
The production on Staples’s album is largely unmemorable, and oft-times mixed so poorly that you can’t even really hear the rapping; the project lacks the distinct flavor of Big Fish Theory’s Detroit-inspired techno, or of Summertime 06’s haunted 808’s, instead favoring heavy-bass bangers that sound good on a first listen, but fade quickly. Worse, Vince is barely trying here, introducing a topic (“Everybody say it’s lonely at the top / I want my homies at the top”), failing to complicate it (“My little homie, he got shot / And now I’m moving by my lonely with the .40 and the mop”), and then moving to some lame witticism when he has nothing else to add (“You know you feel it (you know you feel it) / Record deal, but I did it independent”). Brevity is FM!‘s saving grace; it’s practically over before you notice how unimpressive it is.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 5