The Long Beach rapper’s highly anticipated second collaboration with Kenny Beats is a powerful lo-fi portrait of survival.
For the past decade Vince Staples has been defined by his inscrutability. “Don’t ever put me in a box with you rap bastards / Came from a different struggle,” he rapped on the opener for his début mixtape, “Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1,” from 2011. He shifts his sound from release to release, and his struggle, as a foot soldier in the long-running California gang wars, gets clouded over by deadpan lyrics that make the particulars of his whereabouts difficult to suss out. Most gangsta rappers aren’t exactly forthcoming in that regard, but even among his peers Staples relishes playing it close to the vest. It’s not that he’s hiding—he’s careful.
His new, self-titled album, “Vince Staples,” the first in nearly three years, shows the rapper searching for a unified theory of who he is in his music.