Our first real summer vacation in two years is yet to welcome us with open arms. Truth be told, it’s been one elongated, inescapable sauna with no clear end in sight. The movies have been mediocre, the festivals have remained largely absent, and the music has been passable at best. So, how can one remain cool, calm and collected in a summer as blisteringly humid as this one? Ask Vince Staples, a man who’s shrugged off expectations and comedic Twitter notoriety, and has instead opted to remain his utmost self — a witty, bouncy, hip-hop juggernaut that’s as insightful as he is contagious.
This past weekend, Vince Staples returned to the center of hip-hop with a self-titled album and showcased how he is a fully loaded pistol that fires talent-confetti. This project, which features two interludes and is a remarkably short 22-minutes in length, sees Vince continue his ascension from an intrinsically philosophical bar-dropper to a ghetto tortured, frequent fun-haver. Vince Staples exists in a rarified air where scarring storytelling and club-thumping choruses melt into one glorious sound-sundae.
It’s impossible to pinpoint a stand-out track on a project as cohesive and autobiographical as self-titled. “ARE YOU WITH THAT?” serves as the album’s first chapter, but would’ve been a stellar stand-alone single. It leads into “LAW OF AVERAGES,” which sees a paranoid Staples reveal how the-one-who-made-it is oft taken advantage of and guilt-tripped by supposed loved ones. Oh, and he questions the nature of the term “bad bitch” on the track’s chorus, which is a refreshing perspective. “THE SHINING” is in no way an ode to Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick’s cultural contributions — it’s a bright, both figuratively and literally, introspective track that lends itself to the pain and power of shining. Staples spits with the survivalist instinct, “It’s not what you thought… we dying broke or live with broken hearts.” It’s knock-out punches like this that remind you of why we gather together to marvel at an artist’s greatness. “MHM” is a marvelous conclusion to a stellar project, and it’s perhaps the most objectively "fun" song on the album. It’s Staples at his most nonchalantly matter of fact, and it’s simply delightful.