Long Beach-based rapper Vince Staples has been slowly climbing his way into the rap game the past 5 years with his street rhymes and pre-rap gang life stories. Vince garnered attention in the hip hop world through his frequent collaborations with Odd Future and fellow Cutthroat Boyz members Joey Fatts and Aston Matthews, among working with numerous other prominent hip hop artists. After signing to Def Jam Recordings and releasing 4 solo mixtapes, Vince released his debut EP Hell Can Wait on October 7, 2014.
The 24 minute long project essentially acts as a prelude to his debut album Summertime 06. Vince explained that Hell Can Wait speaks on his summer between 9th and 10th grade, which eventually leads into his album about the summer of 2006. Coming in at around the length of one Family Guy episode, Hell Can Wait showcased a mere snippet of Vince’s talent and what his future career holds.
Despite the short length of the project, what Hell Can Wait did show was that Vince is here and he’s staying a while. Within this first official project he talks about how he loves gangsta culture and simultaneously hates it, how he loves hip hop and also can’t bear the direction in which it has gone; and how prevalent poverty-stricken problems dominated his childhood despite priding himself on who he became through the struggles.
Vince does not sugarcoat his lyrics. In his unique style, he portrays exactly what he perceives. “Fire” begins right off the bat with Vince reminiscing on his younger days in ’06 when he moved to Atlanta. The muzzled verse over the ominous banger, produced by Anthony Kilhoffer and JGramm Beats, kick off his debut with a dark, hell-bent adventure. “65 Hunnid” then progresses the EP with a double entendre of gang banging and sex. The song, and the entire project itself, contain several exterior references:
And ain’t shit wrong with the truth, got the Juice //
Would’ve threw that nigga Bishop off the roof //
which references Juice (1992), in which Q killed Bishop (2Pac) and got “the juice”; in other words street credibility. Vince’s lines accentuate his street cred as a previous crip. Speaking of which, apparently Vince only buys blue shoes because of his preceding gang affiliation. On “Blue Suede,” Vince spits
Bitches ain’t shit but hoes, I been known this //
Niggas gon’ snitch regardless, Mitch showed us //
referencing the character Mitch from the 2002 film Paid in Full, who kept it real but ended up being betrayed by a close friend. Vince then continues to portray his spoken word capabilities on the synth-blasted song, produced by Hagler:
Half these hoes chauffeurs, half these hoes useless //
Fucked the face toothless, easy, so ruthless //
Ask where he from then leave his dome roofless //
“Blue Suede” remains another exhibition of an illegal and vice-filled lifestyle that is so often glorified by rappers and movies (see Scarface).
The 2015 XXL Freshman portrays his more serious side on “Screen Door” and “Hands Up,” (prod. Hagler) where he speaks on his dad selling drugs, and his perspective as a child observing fiends coming to the house and peeking in their doors. This dark, gritty joint brings the listener into his life at home and exhibits how drug dealing and pops’ jail-time affected him at such an age. “Hands up” speaks on Black Americans and their historical struggle within American society. It’s essentially an anthem describing everything fucked up that the police do to minorities, (mostly blacks) and how they are powerless to “pigs,” for which they pay for with taxes mind you.
Vince then slows it down with “Limos,” my personal favorite track off the project. “Limos” is an absolutely gorgeous song throughout; it’s refreshing to see the emotional side and love perspective from Vince. The first verse speaks on his fears of picking up random hoes and groupies, the gold-digger attitude and the “trap” of getting a girl pregnant with his child. The second verse flips to the female perspective of the situation, in which the girl is caught up in the wrong life, witnessing herself sell her body and lustful allure rather than taking the higher road by instilling values and intelligence into her daily life. The closest thing to a love song on this album, Vince portrays his skewed yet realistic visions on the birds and the bees. Hell Can Wait’s sole feature, Teyana Taylor, kills the hook. She has an absolutely beautiful voice and delivers with excellent execution. Kudos to this feature introducing me to her artistry.
Lastly, “Feelin’ the Love” discusses Vince’s renowned storytelling abilities; the man has struggled essentially all of his life and is finally now feeling the love through his rapping career. He senses that even more success lingers right around the corner, and his (at the time) upcoming debut album could forever augment his career.
As a debut EP, Hell Can Wait remains nearly flawless. The concept of the project, in conjunction with the album cover, ties together perfectly. Vince drags the listener into his life story, which bleeds an endless stream of issues. The gritty, lightweight-hardcore production impresses as expected, as Vince has consistently proven his affinity for quality beats. The only blemish of the project is its length. I feel cheated. I want more than 24 minutes of Hell Can Wait, but can never have it. Fortunately, Summertime 06 seemingly picks up where he left off here, as an extension of “Fire”. With both of the aforementioned official projects, Vince Staples has cemented himself as a solid upcoming lyricist in a time where hip hop needs more in the mainstream light.