Hell Can Wait (ep)
I got into listening to rappers for the street-poetry feel, the anger-as-energy, the flow has always been important, great beats/samples/production sure, but it’s about the lyricism, and the cut of it. I love a lot of the positive/conscious stuff, the hippy-trippy paisley fun…but I want to hear something in hip-hop that I can’t find in other forms of music. And it’s a slippery slope, much as I’m all for freedom of speech and against censorship (as a rule) I want the person to actually be saying something – not just mouthing off to showcase expletives.
Enter Vince Staples – a reminder of the best tenets of gangsta-rap, a reminder of Public Enemy’s political commentary, an extension of Kendrick Lamar’s approach.
The Hell Can Wait ep is really a business-card, foot-in-the-door stuff that tells you there’s more to come (we know that now too – a full-lengther arriving on the back of this).
Opener, Fire, has a huge impact but there’s a tautness within the big beat that cushions the sashaying swagger of Staples’ vocals. Here in just over two minutes we are hooked into the EP. And that sort of economy is this official debut’s greatest strength. The three-minute follow-up, 65 Hunnid, is everything great that Dr. Dre and Earl Sweatshirt have mustered. It’s got Kendrick’s version of a strut, which is to say, in a lyrical sense, he’s writing cheques that he knows his butt can cash.
It’s the menacing Screen Door – cinematic, tense – and Hands Up (with its lurking bass-line and hyper-awareness of the age we’re living in) that provide the emotional weight to the centre of this EP. Making this 7-track showcase, refined from time treading the boards, appearing on mixtapes, feel like an album.
Blue Suede menaces with its monotonous rhythm and the squeal of synths peaking in and around Staples’ tight lines. Limos expands the palette – making the synths the star of the show, and it’s as much about Hagler’s guest-production here as it is the lines from Vince. The breakaway to a sing-song refrain comes as a relief from the nearly claustrophobic feel of the verses.
It’s an EP that’s every bit as ominous as its title warns us.