Music

Vince Staples: FM!

Photo courtesy of Def Jam

Vince Staples isn't going to let his listeners hole up for the winter in 2018, offering party bangers and social commentary in the packed 22 minutes of FM!

FM!
Vince Staples

Def Jam

2 November 2018

With each advancement in technology, from the phonograph to Spotify, the music listening experience has continued on a trajectory from communal to highly personal. With the exception of live performances, most popular media for listening to music indeed encourage personalization instead of communal listening. Spotify offers personalized daily playlists for their millions of subscribers. Headphones allow you to listen to whatever you want -- and however loud you want -- without bothering anybody around you. Of course, there are wonderful consequences of these advancements: we're able to access a vast wealth of music and discover new voices and underrated classics infinitely quicker than before. But on the other hand, there is something so foundational to the DNA of music which gets lost in the individualism of today's music listening habits. It's what concerts, festivals, and even radio have always offered music enthusiasts: the opportunity to enjoy music together, to know that others from a myriad of backgrounds and experiences are listening and partying right along with you.

But while media like traditional radio are going away in the headphone age, artists like Vince Staples are using their voice to encourage community through music all the more. Staples' newest effort FM! finds itself implanted in the nationally-broadcast radio show Big Boy's Neighborhood, complete with call-in contests ("(562) 453-9382") and commercials for upcoming music ("New Earl Sweatshirt", "Brand New Tyga"). The conceptual setting in itself speaks to community, bringing listeners together, anticipating the next song together, and just having fun.

The radio show opens with "Feels Like Summer", ironic for an album released in November. Maybe he chose the later release to not compete with the other "Feels Like Summer" released by Childish Gambino in July. Probably more likely though in keeping with the community theme is that Staples recognizes that summer is often a season of high energy parties and good vibes. When the weather changes, however, people tend to keep to themselves more. (Or maybe it just feels like summer all the time because he's from the always sunny Long Beach…) In any case, Staples isn't going to let his listeners hole up for the winter in 2018. Instead, he delivers 22 minutes of some of the hookiest, danciest banger material he's ever released. Along with collaborators Ty Dolla Sign, E-40, Jay Rock, and more, Staples is going to make sure the club is as hot in the Christmas season as it is in mid-July.

And yet, while the tracks on FM! may just be party-ready radio bangers, Staples may be getting at something deeper under the surface as he realizes the party life is often a front (or at least a coping mechanism) for the harsh realities he sees around him. And often, we as consumers only scratch the surface with our radio and TV-fueled celebrity and don't do enough about those harsh realities. "Do you really wanna know about some gangsta shit?" Staples asks on "Relay", a track about outrunning cops, imprisonment, and broken families. Staples presents a picture of life in the projects over two brief verses, but as the radio host comes back to remind listeners to "keep listening for your chance to win tickets to see Kehlani live", the impact is forgotten, and we're back in our safe sedan.

FM! is a brief album, much like Kanye's work earlier this year, but it packs so much into its tracks, especially given the dual purpose of its radio show setting. The social commentary is there to analyze, or you can just turn it on and party. Either way, Staples exemplifies here the reason for music in community. It brings us together in the good times, and it helps us to listen and understand in the hard times.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.