Vince Staples: Vince Staples review – mellifluous west coast nihilism

The California rapper’s most accessible album yet captures the tenderness at play within the clammy tensions of LA

American rap’s mighty financial muscle has elbowed rock to the margins and cleared space for weirder rappers to play – and get paid. Californian Vince Staples started off as an Odd Future affiliate a decade ago, when it was unclear whether the west coast collective could convert their cult popularity into lasting success. Now that Odd Future co-founder Tyler, the Creator is a Billboard chart-topper and Brit award winner, talents such as Staples, who grew up making densely futuristic music, can spy stardom up ahead. Like Tyler’s 2017 breakthrough, Flower Boy, Staples’s new album is much more personal and accessible than anything he’s put out before.

It’s less distorted than you’d expect, with warped backing vocals, jittery percussion and little scraps of melody wafting around some of Staples’ best flows yet. There’s a typical west coast tension between its mellifluous sound and nihilistic words. Are You With That? is one of the loveliest songs you could hope to hear about murdering strangers over drug money. Even better are the ruminative Lil Fade and Taking Trips’ clammy, oppressive heat – love letters to his hometown, drafted with a poison pen.

Watch the lyric video for Are You With That? by Vince Staples


Damien Morris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Vince Staples review – lean, hard rap with a west coast bounce
The California rapper’s stark, rave-informed tunes transcend hip-hop cliches

Kitty Empire

03, Sep, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory review – good vibrations and gunfire
The rapper and former Crip’s urgent second album juxtaposes California sunshine with the horrors of gang life

Kitty Empire

25, Jun, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
What's bugging rapper Vince Staples? Fame and fortune not a selling point
Hip-hop artist is rising to the top of a ‘freshman’ class with his highly anticipated debut Summertime ’06 – but success takes on a deeper meaning

Amanda Holpuch

26, Jun, 2015 @5:28 PM

Article image
On my radar: Vince Staples’s cultural highlights
The LA rapper and actor on the growing pains of Pen15, one-to-watch Reggie Helms Jr and escaping from it all along the Pacific Coast Highway

Kathryn Bromwich

25, Jul, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
The Internet: Hive Mind review – smooth soul seekers cast their net wide
No longer just a hip-hop band’s spin-off, the Internet’s seductive neo-soul is now perfectly in tune with the mainstream on their accomplished fourth album

Kitty Empire

22, Jul, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Vince Staples: Vince Staples review – inventive rapper still walks own path
The Long Beach MC has repeatedly shunned fame – and this spectral take on his region’s G-funk, paired with conversational lyrics, deepens his outsider appeal

Alexis Petridis

01, Jul, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
Duckwrth: SuperGood review – a west coast summer breeze
The California artist’s solo debut delivers easy listening funk with the occasional clever twist

Tara Joshi

23, Aug, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Frank Ocean – review

Frank Ocean's first UK gig since his poll-topping second album proves he's a man who deserves to be heard, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

13, Jul, 2013 @11:05 PM

Article image
Vince Staples: Summertime '06 review – idiosyncratic, impressive solo rap effort
Brooding and menacing, Vince Staples’ debut takes an unflinching tour around his Long Beach, LA neighbourhood

Lanre Bakare

09, Jul, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Vince Staples review – big fish of rap hooks leaping crowd
Kentish Town Forum, London
The LA rapper cuts his hypnotic choruses with racial commentary while flinging about the stage with enough energy to inspire the mosh pit

Ian McQuaid

31, Aug, 2017 @10:21 AM