Vince Staples ★★★
FM! DEF JAM. DL
Californian G-funk, 2018 style.
For those whose engagement with contemporary hip-hop is at best dilettantish, it can be hard to look beyond Kendrick Lamar as the pre-eminent voice of Californian rap. Over three albums, though, Long Beach’s Staples has proved himself to be Lamar’s near equal; an eloquent, selfreflexive rapper who toggles pointedly between sunshine party invocations and verité reports from the streets. After 2017’s ambitious Big Fish Theory (and guest spots with Gorillaz), FM! initially feels slighter, not least because of a brisk 22-minute duration. The breeziness is deceptive, though, as Staples and producer Kenny Beats construct a minimalist update of G-funk where the jams are always freighted with an awareness of potential violence. Feels Like Summer articulates Staples’ dilemma right from the off: “Summertime in the LB wild,” he chants, “We gon’ party ’til the sun or the guns come out.”