Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait (Extended Review)

vince-staples-hell-can-wait

After dropping an excellent single paired with a pretty fantastic music video, Vince Staples has released his full 7-track EP through Def Jam. My initial thought, shortly after noting how hard the production goes, was Vince’s lyricism. Now, I’ve noticed this with every mixtape of his; he’s always dropping matter-of-fact bars that I don’t think many other rappers would be ballsy enough to even write. His lyricism has a certain eloquent bluntness to it, so hearing that continue wasn’t surprising, but it does always strike me when I listen to his music. It’s just so gritty, it’s so emotionless, it’s so raw. I don’t think anyone else can rap about the plight of a kid stuck in the ghetto quite how Vince does. And, to put it this way: if you listen to Kendrick Lamar and think he is the only one really telling like it is, I suggest you listen to Hell Can Wait. From the time you hear the deep, dark bass kicks on “Fire”, you know the project isn’t going to be cheery, let alone sugarcoated. Alright, since the Hell Can Wait is unfortunately only 7 songs, I’ll touch on a hand full that really caught my attention.

“Blue Suede”: This project was introduced to us by the bold single “Blue Suede”. The track goes deep into some experiemental production, to the point where if I had heard this beat on its own, I wouldn’t have thought anyone could actually rap over it, let alone fit into it well enough to drop a line like “ hit the corner, run up on ‘em, turn a nigga to Spaghetti-O’s”. The only worrisome thing about the single was if Vince could keep this sort of performance up for the full release. And, spoiler alert, he did.

“Hands Up”: Okay, the big thing I really dig about this project is how consistent it is while still managing some variety to keep the EP from blending into one big overly themed package (AKA My Krazy Life syndrome). “Hands Up” is an example of this. Once Vince’s verse kicks off, the beat is feeling pretty robust; sirens are going off and 808’s are giving the production some really nice body. Then, after the hook, this farty synth is introduced to the mix that 100% sets the track off for me. Probably my personal favorite track of the EP, but that could also be because of how compellingly it uses the “fuck the police” Hip hop cliché.

“Screen Door”: Nothing is without its flaws, eh? At about 53 seconds in on the track “Screen Door”, a line of high hats is introduced that are incorporated pretty atrociously. And to add to that, the hook doesn’t blend too well into the project as a whole. It slowed down the flow of the EP, honestly. For a project like this where we are essentially carried through by knocking bass-heavy production and Vince casually delivering lyrical haymakers, a droning chorus like this halts all momentum that we’ve created from the first two tracks being too hot to touch.

“Limos”: It’s safe to assume you’ll find at least one song on any given Vince Staples release that deals with the theme of lost love. One would think this would clash with his thuggish persona, but to his credit he has been getting better and better at making those tracks fit into his releases cohesively. On Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1 we had “Taxi”, on Vol. 2 we had “Earth Science”, and now we have “Limos”. Production wise, this track is probably the most you’ll hear EP divert from its overall sound (at least melodically) but it still sounds so at home on this project, and Hell Can Wait wouldn’t be the same experience without it.

In summary: Vince Staples’ Hell Can Wait is absolutely 100% a seminal rap project for this year. It’s gritty, it knocks, and it’s a sound that you haven’t gotten anywhere else in Hip hop in the last several years, let alone in 2014. His production is noisy, harsh, and grimy, but it goes superbly with his brutally honest and macabre lyricism. Going forward, this EP is what I’ll be sending people to if they ask about Vince. I think it’s fully justifiable to say that this is his best work. Bruh, and I thought Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 was dope. You can peep his project here before you see it on all the “best of” year end lists. Enjoy.

Personal high points:

“Fire” / “Hands Up” / “Blue Suede” / “Limos”

Personal low points:

“Screen Door”

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Charlie Johns