Vince Staples signed to Def Jam two years ago, but it hasn't shown much in his music. He's still a pokerfaced and determinedly unflashy rapper—seemingly allergic to spelling out his fraught themes—and it was initially hard to imagine the form his career might take under the auspices of a major. Last year's Hell Can Wait was a more-than-promising start, though, as the Long Beach MC built on the promise of his formative mixtapes, offering bleak, out-of-time gangsta rap amalgams that drew from backpacker and modern street rap traditions.
Now, on what is apparently the first single from his upcoming LP, Staples tips the scales toward current trap music parlance. Superficially, the inclusion of Future signals this, but the key is more in the pointillistic production from chameleonic Chicago duo Christian Rich, and Staples' own austere flow. Future’s contribution is not a sinuous melodic hook, as one might expect, but clipped, dry triplets: The song’s chorus is a sample cut bluntly out of the first verse of his "Covered N Money". On the original, it was part of a rev-up to explosive euphoria, but stripped of context, the dully intoned snippet takes on a haunting, ritualistic sound.
Vince is his restrained best, taking victory laps between brief, animated moments of violence. He nudges his steady flows in new directions without showing the seams—never forsaking his calculated sense of cool, but never letting it dull the power of his tableaus. His words breathe on the track, even if it takes a second to read between the lines and process that a death comes at the end of each verse. The track is only thrown into disorder in the instrumental release: all blown-out vocals, mournful, cascading harpsichord figures, and one swan-song blast from a wordless digi-chorale. The restraint and discipline that has always served Staples works new magic here, and bodes well for Summertime.