January 12, 2012 7 comments
Vince Staples is, somewhat, the last remaining vestige of the Odd Future era that sparked who (and what) the OFWGKTA crew is now. And, for someone who wasn’t a part of the group, and only featured on a handful of the crew’s earliest, rarest material, that speaks volumes to just how dynamic a rhymer Staples is. Not only does he display the earnest, disturbingly candid imagery of a Tyler, the Creator, but he couples it with the panache for complex wordplay and delivery of an Earl Sweatshirt (matching verses with him on a career launching feature doesn’t hurt either).
The Wolf Gang comparisons aren’t exactly as applicable as they were a year ago. Thanks, greatly, to the Trillwave movement gaining some headway last year (spearheaded by the homies over at The Hood Internet and Applebird), Vince has fallen into a niche that still holds a thin tether to his OF roots, but builds a much more interesting catalog with Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1; via a brain-trust of innovative producers, and a colorful cast of MC’s around him.
Back in early November, Vince dropped “Versace Rap”, a brashly confessional three-verse exposé accented by beat-wunderkind Michael Uzowuru’s haunting boom bap background. As far as first singles go, you can’t make more of a statement than running fresh out the gate with lines like: “Never had belief in Christ, ’cause in the pictures he was white / Same color as the judge that gave my hood repeated life sentences for little shit / church I wasn’t feeling it.” And: “The only girl I ever loved turned into a bitch / If I ever see her and I got a gun, she getting chipped.” Talk about baring it all.
This jarring style of truth-before-embellishment made Staples an easy standout on tracks with contemporaries Mike G (whose Award Tour EP would be absolutely abysmal without Vince) and Speak! (whom you cannot continue to ignore), but on his solo debut, Vince takes on the world, for the most part, alone. That solitary position affirms itself almost immediately on the slow-rolling intro “Progressive”. The gunplay talk and money-fetishism is on par with pretty much any mainstream rapper, but the context is much more bleak. So, on “Trigga Witta Heart” and “Hostile”, when Vince raps about catching bodies and stockpiling stacks of cash, there’s an unnervingly subdued urgency to his delivery that sounds more like an eye-witness account, rather than the hyperbolic prose of a young Cali rapper.
That haunting delivery is a trait that could easily hurt Staples over the course of a full-length release, but, a speedy 23 minute running-time, and the attention to detail in the beats transforms Vince’s flow into less of a deterrent and more of its own instrument. Vince slyly lectures his way through “102”, but that understated flow adds to the hook’s head-banging crescendo, and puts laser-like focus on his more impressive lines: “Understand my grind is crooked; TK with an SK. Load off one mag in your car, dash, like an Armean with a sextape.” And, on “SOB”, the lone Mike G feature here (smartly relegating him to hook duty), Vince seeps his voice into the sultry soul-infused beat to the point where it almost fades away.
My only complaints with this mixtape are mainly aesthetic. It’s a bit too short for a grand introduction, but then again, as the first of a series, it’s an appropriate taste of what Staples is capable of. Also, the mixing can get in the way of the vocalists sometimes. Not that it should be studio quality, but Vince has lyrics that shouldn’t ever go unheard, and they sometimes get washed out. Those issues do, surprisingly, lend to the replay value, though. Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1 dropped December 30th of last year, and I’ve been playing it close to non-stop since. I’m not sure what it is, or where the appeal is drawn from, but call it hunch. Or, a sixth sense. Or maybe just blind fanaticism, but I’m on the Vince Staples bandwagon.
Grab the mixtape here