Just a year after the release of his sophomore effort, Big Fish Theory, Long Beach emcee Vince Staples returned with his third official full-length, FM! While the album contains 11 tracks, only eight of those clock in at more than a minute, giving this EP-length set roughly the same runtime as 2016's Prima Donna. That briskness works in favor of FM!, resulting in an urgent, taut listen that leaves listeners wanting more. As the title suggests, FM! is presented in a throwback radio format, turning the dial from Staples' hard-hitting tunes to special entries by guests Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga. A slew of other famous friends also make appearances, including Ty Dolla $ign, Jay Rock, E-40, Kamaiyah, Kehlani, Buddy, and more. Yet, despite the impressive roster, FM! remains the Staples' show, his head-spinning flow and twisting wordplay making every track he touches a must-listen. Unsurprisingly, he hits the same themes that he's known for -- including black pride, street violence, "Norf"side repping, and partying -- all with characteristic bite and wit. Without the harsh drill production of Big Fish Theory, FM! is slightly more accessible -- as summer-breezy as Staples can get -- and hypnotizes as effortlessly as it menaces. "Relay," "Outside!" and "FUN!" are the highlights on an album of standouts, but in reality, every track is worthy of attention. Despite FM!'s brevity, Staples jams so much into every bar that it fully satiates, all while still managing to end so abruptly that it comes as a surprise. The electrifying thrill of FM! is a triumph for the rapper who remains at the top of his game.
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo