FM! is presented to give the impression that the listener popped the radio on. “Feels Like Summer” starts with a flip-through of various FM stations before turning the volume up and settling on Vince’s opener. The production across the first few tracks isn’t the EDM-infused rap that made last year’s Big Fish Theory special, but it’s got a steady flow of hip-hop foot-tappers. The Long Beach rapper begins by dishing the truth, starting with white America’s inability to understand his lyrics despite observations of predominantly white Coachella crowds. “Outside” delves further into the gang life surrounding his childhood city of Long Beach. Staples’ storytelling culminates on “Relay”, detailing a (very possibly true) tale of a gangsta love triangle.
Vince has had some hits with the bubbly rap sound, and “FUN!” builds on that. The animated sound is buffed by the rapper’s speedy flow on the mic and flashy California hood slang. The music video is shot like a series of images on Google Earth taking viewers on a stroll through Long Beach. It reaches a clever conclusion when the images zoom out to reveal a 12-ish looking white kid getting called by his mom, then frantically shutting the lid on his laptop. It’s a witty jab that builds on Staple’s theme of naive people jamming out to the rough-and-tumble hood life of his lyrics.
The album (or EP?) shines outside of the songs, too. The skit “(562) 453-9382” mimics call-in “game shows” that tests the listener’s pop culture expertise. The bit quizzes a contestant who needs to name 7 celebrities whose first names start with “V”. Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga make quick cameos in between Vince’s songs to sell the broadcast-style. Even if their appearances are minor, they’re a creative fit to the playlist’s architecture. These interludes obviously aren’t the highlights, but they dress the album to catapult it into a world of its own.
FM! is a quick record, barely leaving any room to breathe in between track transitions. The brief song lengths result in a 22-minute runtime, yet the project still finds a way to feel like a complete record. An original concept all around, the release contains all the fun of bopping to the radio, minus all the mainstream pop garbage. It only adds to the argument over why Staples isn’t as popular as other rappers, considering the genre’s current peak of appeal.
SCAD Radio gives the short record an 8/10.