Hell Can Wait is Vince Staples‘ first release under No I.D.’s supervision at Def Jam. Hailing from Long Beach, California Vince is what happens when a young observant man is thrown into a life of poverty, violence and drug culture with a natural ability for rapping. With stories ranging from Black Pride, growing up in a gang affiliated family, lost females, and many other heavy topics, the 21 year old emcee sets himself far apart from his peers.
While “Screen Door” was a favorite among our panel for its metaphoric approach to its lyrics and production, “Hands Up” played that role for me for similar reasons. The suspicious sound of the production’s bass and sirens enhance Vince’s call for attention to the mistreatment of minorities by police in Los Angeles. There is something to be said about the idea that police have become more feared than admired in these areas after a history of violence and even forged crimes at the hands of the police dating back to the 1970’s.
Vince finishes the last verse of “Hands Up” with this sequence…
“I used to lift my fist to fight the power with
Older homie told me in his day the pigs was plantin’ bricks
In the trunks of nigga’s Chevrolets them traffic stops and shit
Raidin’ homes without a warrant
Shoot him first without a warning
And they expect respect and non-violence
I refuse the right to be silent”
While much of Vince’s music deals with him playing the role of the bad guy by necessity, this song demonstrates a moment where he steps outside to give us a clear view of the bigger picture in the forgotten neighborhoods of the United States. How can one play it straight when the ones who enforce the rules are playing dirty? We see police using unnecessary force on a daily basis at this point and Vince gives us a first person point of view of what’s really going on.
Another favorite of mine was “Feeling The Love.” We’re so used to used to hearing Vince on very dreary or haunting production. “Feeling The Love” diverts from his usual route. The instrumental is celebratory, as if Vince has just crossed a proverbial finish line by completing his first major label project. After an album about the downtrodden sides of his past he awakens us to his “now.”In “Hell Can Wait” he’s found that music is going to be a very legitimate late pass. Aside from what the song represents, aesthetically “Feeling The Love” is very pleasing as well. Vince variates his cadences, weaving in between the synths while still keeping our eyes open with his story.
We see his growth as an artist on this song. If there is any gripe with Vince it’s that he isn’t much of a risk taker musically. Sure, he was out in the streets doing shit most of us would shutter at the thought of, but musically his talent has always felt a little caged. His hooks are hardly ever more than simple chants. You can hear him struggling with breath control in verses. And at times his verses sound like he’s just reading right off of his phone or paper. If his voice wasn’t so distinct he might have had a problem there. “Feeling The Love” represents that growth. It’s almost like Michael (Mack Wilds) in Season 4 of The Wire, who starts off looking 12 and seemingly goes through puberty over the course of two episodes in the same season. You see the evolution right on this EP.
Other favorites among the panel were the Mary J. Blige inspired “Limos,” where Vince’s tale of the fucked up situation-ships that lead to bastard children. “Screen Door,” and “65 Hunnid” are songs that led to a heated debate amongst our Ether Report panel.
When the smoke clears, Vince staples is a 21 year old artist with co-signs from Common and No I.D. who just released his first project on Def Jam records. His talent supersedes his ambition at the moment, but the growth is noticeable and he gives off that vibe of somebody who just needs to buy in and commit to his craft. WHEN he does that, rappers beware. In the meantime, he’ll just be dropping dope shit for us to lean on.
*Ether Report Card: 8.2 (out of 10)