Review: Vince Staples – RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART

10 months ago, I talked about Vince Staples and his self-titled 4th studio album, and I briefly mentioned that he has another album following that as well as a rumored collaboration with The Alchemist and Earl Sweatshirt, but that’s for another day. That other album is Ramona Park Broke My Heart, and judging by the first single “Magic!” and looking at the track list, it wasn’t going to be the usual short project that he has been doing for the past two albums. As he stated, it was going to be his longest one at 41 minutes (although Summertime ’06 is 51 minutes being a double album and all).

The first listen I gave to this is that the sound has a mellow, laidback tone with it. It has that West Coast laidback style courtesy of producers like Mustard (formerly DJ), DJ Dahi, Cardo, Kenny Beats and a lot of others that I’m very unfamiliar with, but I think they delivered some vibe-driven production on here, and it works within the contrast of what Vince is rapping about.

Now, we all know what Vince raps about in his albums at this point from growing up in his hood and surviving to looking back on his friends and homies who are no longer with him aka a lot of bleak material. I may be saying it like it’s getting old but it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with looking back at your trauma and being lucky that you’re in a better place today and what makes it work is that the production isn’t overbearing or dramatic with it.

Opening tracks like “Aye (Free The Homies)” & “DJ Quik” set up the record quite nicely with the latter sampling and interpolating the DJ Quik track “Dollaz + Sense.” As for “Magic”, I dug the instrumental coming from Mustard and as someone who’s not much of a fan of his, it fits the West Coast lax vibe. “When Sparks Fly” does got an interesting concept with the relationship between a person and a gun: in the first verse he’s talking to the gun, and in the 2nd verse the gun’s thinking what’s gonna happen when that person is taken away from them. It’s quite a tragic relationship song about how much trouble he could get into and following that song is “East Point Prayer” with Lil Baby as a guest feature, and the song is all him being in Atlanta for some time after some trouble in Ramona Park and thinking what trouble he would be in. Also, the verse from Lil Baby was decent but I’ll say if you don’t like his voice, this won’t change your mind but it’s alright.

Bounce out, chunkin’ up the hood
Money in the bank, so I’m feelin’ good
Pulled up on the gang, never Hollywood
Showin’ em the way, so they show a nigga love
But, these lil’ niggas runnin’ wild
Bought a .40 Cal., out the Jordan Downs

Depression and Existentialism is still a topic here with the song “Papercuts” with this first verse:

They wanna know if I’m in the street
Or if I still feel a way about the enemies
If I went and died today, who remember me?
Just keep it real with me, I don’t need no sympathy
I hate this industry, missin’ sleep, been some weeks
Countin’ money up while they countin’ sheep
Used to picture me rollin’, vividly

“Lemonade” with Ty Dolla Sign sounds like breezy with the snap production that fits well with the melody. “Player Ways” is a relationship song but more of the player kind aka he’s down to love you up but he’s for the streets. Then there’s “Rose Street” about how he’s married to the gang life and nothing, not even your girl can persuade him from that.

She said she in love, what’s that?
Trust, what’s that? Us, what’s that? Yeah (You know the deal)
I’m married to the gang, don’t be playing games (Yeah)
Only bringing flowers to the homie’s grave (To the homies’ graves, yeah)
She said she in love, what’s that? (Love)
Trust, what’s that? (Love) Us, what’s that? Yeah (Yeah)
I’m married to the money (Yeah), don’t be playing games (It’s ’bout the money)
Only bringing flowers to the homie’s grave (What’s that?, yeah)

The album closes with “The Blues” and it does end on a bleak note (well, this album isn’t exactly sunlight and rainbows) with how money makes him numb and all his success doesn’t make his life any easier or happier.
All-in-all, we got what we got from Vince Staples on this album, and while the subject matter continues to be dark, nihilistic and depressing, the production being this breezy, light and vibe-heavy makes it not that overbearing. It’s on par with previous albums like FM! and his self-titled one except with an extra 15-20 minutes.

FINAL VERDICT: Stream it. Hey, it didn’t break my heart.

RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART is on Blacksmith Records and Motown Records and is available on CD, digital download and streaming services.

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