Vince Staples

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Summertime '06 (2015), 7.5/10
Big Fish Theory (2017), 5.5/10
FM (2018), 5/10
Vince Staples (2021), 4/10
Ramona Park Broke My Heart (2022), 4/10

Following the mixtapes Shyne Coldchain (2011) and and Shyne Coldchain vol 2 (2014), Los Angeles' rapper Vince Staples debuted with a much-hyped EP, Hell Can Wait (2014). The highlights of the EP are the arrangements: the nocturnal jazz atmosphere of 65 Hunnid, crafted by Marco "Infamous" Rodriguez-Diaz, the synth-tinged Blue Suede, produced by Marvin "Hagler" Thomas, the bombastic Fire, Screen Door.

The double album Summertime '06 (2015), architected by Dion "No ID" Wilson, Dacoury "DJ Dahi" Natche and Michael "Clams Casino" Volpe, is a vast claustrophobic fresco of dangerous living. The 21-year-old rapper unleashed stoic autobiographical narratives within productions that evoked a terrified state of mind. The visceral documentary Lift me Up is quintessential Staples, as is the musically uneventful Norf Norf, produced by Clams Casino. The sound art combines with his tragic declamation to shape the threatening atmosphere of Senorita, produced by Christian Rich. The fractured epileptic Afrobeat of Get Paid, produced by No ID, the agonizing industrial metronome of Like it is, even the comic beat of Surf are designed to maximize tension. The atonal Street Punks (wrapped in a subsonic ambience reminiscent of the Residents), is the other side of the syrupy and almost operatic Might be Wrong, as they both serve the same psychological purpose from opposite directions. Staples is not alone: the producers add the whispered female vocals (that sound more sinister than sensual) over the swampy beat of Dopeman, multiple counterpoints in the limping rigmarole of Lemme Know, and screaming tribal women in the wild African dance of Jump Off The Roof. If Coldest Nigga Breathing is a piano-based shuffle that sounds like a sarcastic take on lounge music, the percussive cannibal pow-wow orgy of 3230 leaves no doubt about the mood of the juveline delinquent.

In between album Staples released the suicide-centered EP Prima Donna (2016).

Big Fish Theory (2017), a brief album full of half-baked songs, probably rushed to capitalize on the success of the debut, adopted a more electronic and metallic sound, marketed as "futuristic" (but ironically reminiscent of the two-step productions of 20 years earlier). The songs are far less varied than the ones on the debut. The fast-moving Crabs in a Bucket and the elastic dance Party People try to inject some life in a music that is rarely adventurous. Yeah Right is the notable exception. Big Fish discovers the power of subliminal syncopation and Rain Come Down discovers the power of senseless iteration.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Francesco Romano Spanò )

Dopo i mixtapes Shyne Coldchain (2011) e Shyne Coldchain vol 2 (2014), il rapper di Los Angeles Vince Staples esordì con un EP super acclamato, Hell Can Wait (2014). Le cose migliori dell’EP erano gli arrangiamenti: la notturna atmosfera jazz di 65 Hunnid, creata da Marco "Infamous" Rodriguez-Diaz, Blue Suede, tinteggiata di sintetizzatori e prodotta da Marvin "Hagler" Thomas, le ampollose FireScreen Door.


Il doppio Summertime '06 (2015), architettato da Dion "No ID" Wilson, Dacoury "DJ Dahi" Natche and Michael "Clams Casino" Volpe, è un mostruoso affresco claustrofobico di vita pericolosa. Il rapper ventunenne sguinzaglia i suoi stoici racconti autobiografici all’interno di produzioni che evocano uno stato mentale impaurito. Il viscerale documentario Lift me Up è la quintessenza di Staples, così come il musicalmente monotono Norf Norf, prodotto da Clams Casino. L’arte sonora si combina alle sue tragiche declamazioni per creare la minacciosa atmosfera di Senorita, prodotta da Christian Rich. Il fratturato, epilettico Afrobeat di Get Paid, prodotto da No ID, l’agonizzante metronomo industriale di Like it is, e perfino il ritmo buffo di Surf sono studiati per intensificare la tensione. L’atonale Street Punks (avvolta in un’atmosfera supersonica che ricorda i Residents), è l’altra faccia sdolcinata e quasi lirica di Might be Wrong, come se avessero la stessa meta psicologica ma intrapresa da direzioni diverse. Staples non è solo: i produttori lo accompagnano con sussurri di cantanti femminili (che sembrano più sinistri che sensuali) sul ritmo palustre di Dopeman, multipli contrappunti nella filastrocca claudicante di Lemme Know, e donne tribali urlanti nella selvaggia danza africana di Jump Off The Roof. Se Coldest Nigga Breathing è uno shuffle pianistico che suona come una sarcastica interpretazione della musica lounge, l’orgia ritmica cannibale del pow-wow di 3230 non lascia dubbi sull’umore del giovane delinquente.


Tra un album e l’altro, Staples pubblicò l’EP Prima Donna (2016), incentrato sul suicidio.


Big Fish Theory (2017), un breve album pieno di canzoni raffazzonate, probabilmente volendo speculare sul successo del debutto, adotto un sound più elettronico e metallico, spacciato come “futurista” (ma ironicamente reminiscente della “two-step productions” (?) di vent’anni fa). Le canzoni sono molto meno varie di quelle nell’album di debutto. La movimentata Crabs in a Bucket e la danza elastica di Party People cercano di dare un po’ di vita a della musica raramente avventurosa. Yeah Right è una lodevole eccezione. Big Fish scopre il potere della sincope subliminale e Rain Come Down scopre il potere della insensata iterazione.

The mini-album FM (2018), containing eleven brief songs, mostly produced by Kenny Beats, separated by (annoying) radio-station interludes, went straight for the mainstream. The single Fun sounds like a group of street musicians dancing around a bonfire. No Bleedin is facile party music, Feels Like Summer is a silly melodic ditty, and Don't Get Chipped sounds downright clownish. He gets serious on the slow and sorrowful Relay and Run the Bands, but it's too little too late.

The brief songs of the 22-minute mini-album Vince Staples (2021), produced by Kenny Beats, are mostly delivered in a lethargic mood (emblematic Law of Averages), and therefore largely uneventful, save the occasional intriguing instrumental background (Take me Home).

Ramona Park Broke My Heart (2022), dedicated to the neighborhood where he grew up, is not any better than its predecessors, despite being hailed as "best rap of the year" only because it contains the radio-friendly single Lemonade, a collaboration with Tyrone "Ty Dolla $ign" Griffin. Dijon "DJ Mustard" McFarlane provides a pleasant beat and horns samples to Magic, while When Sparks Fly, produced by Frano Huett, has an interesting rap-singing interplay, and DJ Quik, produced by Dacoury "DJ Dahi" Natche, floats in a discreet electronic soundscape; but everything is forgettable. Drenched in nostalgia, his anemic rapping sounds more like whining.

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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