If you like intelligent street raps mixed with iconoclastic questioning of authority, spit over soulful and eerie beats, Vince Staples is for you.
Before the beat drops, Larry Fisherman provides a surreal sounding piece of music. It’s almost like the sound you hear when you put your ear up to a conch shell and hear “the ocean.” When the beat finally drops, I was a little bit bored. That changed as soon as Vince Staples spit his first lines. A few bars in, he says: “Tryin to live by your means/breaking news 10PM see your friends on the screen.” And it is apparent that Staples is not another rapper glorifying the street life, rather, he’s going to give you the truth: good, bad, beautiful or ugly and nothing will stop him from bringing it to you. This is the weakest beat on the album, but stay patient and you will hear greatness.
At 10 tracks, Stolen Youth is terse. Wasting no bars, using no superfluous run-around statements, Staples gives you his life straight forward and to the point without missing a beat. For those who don’t know, Larry Fisherman is the production alias used by Mac Miller. He appears as a feature on 2 tracks, but I am happy to report that Vince Staples clearly owns this album and steals the show even from such talented heavy weight features like Miller, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q. The other lesser known features Hardo, Dash and Joey Fatts also shine bright at their parts, but this is clearly Staples’ album.
“I gotta stop with the trigger talkin, I promised mama, but I’m rappin’ my life,” Staples raps on the second track. So he establishes early on that there will be no glorification, rather, reporting live and direct from the streets of Long Beach, California. That line is followed by “I should throw my shows in synagogues, mention me when you mention God, but fuck it I’m just talkin shit to y’all.” That’s the kind of showmanship and bravado I love to hear from an MC. Because, after all, the first word in “MC” is Master. Vince Staples is clearly a master of his craft, and it is apparent that he will not waver in his relentless pursuit for truth telling and finding success.
On “Heaven,” Staples explores “what Heaven’s like,” all the while kicking tales of stealing meals from the mall, his mother’s mortality, gun ownership, having a heavy heart and not trusting certain women, among other things. Mac Miller handles the hook, but I have to wonder who actually wrote it.
At this point in the album, there is cohesiveness between the lyrics and the music behind them. Staples and Fisherman clearly have chemistry, as is obvious by now. To reiterate, the weakest beat on the album is the first track. But Fisherman displays his skills quite nicely, and the rest of the beats on this album are great.
“Back Sellin’ Crack,” is very soulful. A vocal sample lingers in the background as Staples proclaims: “I’ve learned a lot in these 19 years, a lot of homies ain’t shed one tear, God decide what my curfew is.” With that double entendre, Staples allows the power of interpretation to reside with the listener. Sadly, lesser rappers can’t do this. Is he speaking literally? Are his parents not mindful of when he comes home at night? Or is he using “curfew” as a metaphor for the end of his life? ScHoolboy Q closes out the track with a nice verse, but unfortunately, pales in comparison to Staple’s previous efforts on the song.
Staples opens “Stuck in My Ways” with the lines, “I wanna ask God why the Bible lied to me, just full of politics leavin’ niggas without a sin, is it false prophets who forge religious documents, I’d spend my whole life sinnin’ without a consequence.” At this point it is clear, even at the young age of 19, that Staples is able to think for himself, question authority and usher his own meaning and sense of purpose into his life. I wish I could say the same about the 19 year old me, and I have an inclination that Staples is unique in this ability if compared to other 19 year olds.
My least favorite moment on the album is Staples’ verse on “Sleep.” Not because it’s a wack verse. Not at all. It’s just that who would want to go anchor after the likes of Ab-Soul and Mac Miller? Not to mention a great opening verse from Dash. But it’s a good thing that the features are sparse, it allows Staples carry the bulk of the weight like only he can.
My favorite track is “Killin Y’all” (“Sleep” is also up there) which features Black Hippy representative Ab-Soul. This is also my favorite beat on the album. There’s an eeriness about the music behind the lyrics. The bass line is on point and the accompanying samples lend attention to the lyrics, which is what the beat should always do. Ab-Soul opens up the track, claiming: “Vince know what I know now and I’m 26.” At this point, if it wasn’t already apparent, Staples possesses a maturity and candor seldom seen in people his age. And he’s ahead of his time. I look forward to future releases from this artist. Word around the internet is Staples and fellow rapper Common will be working together on future music. I can only imagine what they will cook up. This man is one to watch, and his future is bright. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open. He’s not done yet. This is only the beginning of what will be a prosperous career.
Some High lights:
“Might seem jaded but even Satan was heaven sent”
“Nothin’ but anger inside that chamber, they from the other side so we hate ‘em no need explainin’”
“I just wanna get my bread and talk my shit ‘fo I end up dead.”
“I’m from the ghetto where the oceans is, but all hope is lost, we know the laws and quick to break em once the dough involved.”
“You better than I? Nobody alive.”
“House look like a gun range, room look like a gun store, either y’all gon’ know my name or nigga’s dyin’ young and poor.”
“You be into rap beef cuz you ain’t never had beef.”
Mac Miller’s verse on “Sleep.”
To download Vince Staples' "Stolen Youth," via DJ Booth, click here.