Vince Staples is one of the most acclaimed rappers working today, a talented storyteller with a storied catalog and the ability to create heady, reflective bars. However, the last few albums he’s released have veered into more palatable radio rap with his producers aligning themselves in the same stylistic wave (the same aesthetic that’s served up Earl Sweatshirt’s Hive and Clams Casino’s All Nite). The result is songs like "WHEN SPARKS FLY," where an organ-drenched beat locks into a tight groove with reckless scattering of trap hi hats before Staples delivers a laidback flow, occasionally veering off into spontaneous melodic cascades. The resulting song feels more like a 90s rap love song than a street record.
The same can be said for the rest of the album, where interludes pull from reports about gang violence and the like (on "NAMELESS" we hear dialogue from a ’90s episode of 20th Century With Bill Moyers on Compton Piru Sylvia “Rambo” Nunn). There are moments, too, where Staples flexes his creative prowess. For instance, the hook on "ROSE STREET" is as silky-smooth as any Luther Vandross hit with a soulful sample and a vocal loop that makes the lyrics about kicking it with and missing his woman glow. But, even these moments are tinged with a pervasive ennui that stems from Staples' overreliance on the same tired writing crutches.