23-year-old Vince Staples has already proven himself to be one of the most talented young rappers in the game. His first ep Hell can Wait was massive, and Staples immediately drew looks for his impeccable flow and dense, personal subject matter, while his debut studio album Summertime ’06 ended up towards the top of many “best of the year” lists in 2015. This time around, the same energy is definitely present, but with some effort to shake things up and try something new.
The opening skit “Let it Shine” is the dark, grim type of material we’ve come to expect from Staples: a children’s song capped off (no pun intended) with a loud and abrupt gunshot that sets the tone for the ep. Immediately afterwards is a sampled beat of Outkast’s “Atliens” on the track “War Ready.” I was surprised to learn that this beat was produced by James Blake (as well ass the track “Big Time”) the British electronic R&B singer, who released the much more subdued “The Colour in Anything” earlier this year. I had no idea he could be such a capable hip hop producer. That being said, the hook of “War Ready” is rather weak, despite the great verses and production. This is an issue that Staples has had for a little while on a good handful of tracks, but it doesn’t drag the EP down too hard.
“Smile” is definitely new territory for Staples. With a jazzy, guitar-laden hook, and a bouncy, jagged flow, he’s noticeably stepping out of his usual zone. And it works. This is also apparent on the title track, which features A$ap Rocky. Apart from those are the quintessential Vince Staples bangers: “Loco” and “Pimp Hand,” the two best tracks on the album (“Pimp Hand” is killer despite its repetitious hook). The tracks are aggressive (obviously), catchy, and show off all of Staples’ impeccable abilities to ride a beat. One thing that hurts a bit is the inclusion of skits at the end of most of the tracks. They do well to add some atmosphere to the EP, and get some of Staples’ inner thoughts, but their placement slows the pace a good amount.
Regardless, this is still a great, very listenable project. It’s more of what we’ve come to expect from Vince Staples, and gives him some ground to expand and try some new techniques. Most of them work, and when they do, they really work. When young artists release projects like this, it gives me security that the future of hip hop is in good hands.