Album Review | Vince Staples – RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART

This album was released on April 8th this year. Believe it or not, at one point before I started this blog, Vince Staples was one of my favorite rappers. I listened to his Stolen Youth mixtape and was blown away not only by the Larry Fisherman production, but also Vince’s rapping and song-making ability. Unfortunately he hasn’t lived up to my expectations in recent years, but I still enjoy his work to some extent. I think Summertime ’06 is a borderline amazing album, but that was the last time I was really blown away by his work. With that said, I did enjoy his self-titled album from last year to some extent, and FM! was good too. I even like the EPs that I’ve heard from him like Prima Donna & Hell Can Wait. The only project of his that I haven’t enjoyed up to this point is Big Fish Theory, but that’s just because I’m not into House beats at all. Anyway, I haven’t heard any singles from this latest project unless I’m mistaken, so I don’t really know what this is gonna sound like. Even though his music isn’t as great as it used to be in my opinion, I do appreciate how none of his albums sound the same, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he did with this latest project.

The album begins with kind of a snoozer entitled THE BEACH. Well, maybe that’s a bit too harsh. It’s not a bad song at all. It just feels like it ends before it really starts. It’s just over a minute long, so it only consists of one verse, and it ends kind of abruptly. I don’t really think the production from Mingo is anything special, but it’s certainly sufficient. Same goes for the verse itself. I mean, there are a couple cool lines peppered in there, but for the most part it’s not that interesting.

I'm afraid to catch a case, I feel like everybody snitching
Cold sweats and the shivers, I be having premonitions
Growin' up, ain't had no lights unless it said to check the engine
'Less we had to spark the wick, show somebody that we miss 'em

It’s not the most fulfilling track just because of its brevity, but I don’t think it’s bad at all. It’s an okay song. It’s followed by a highlight called AYE! (FREE THE HOMIES). This is definitely my favorite song on the album. I really like the melodic production from LeKen Taylor, and this song easily has my favorite hook on the album. The opening verse is pretty good too. There are some really hard lines in there.

Shoot a nigga mama if she out while we slidin'
Go up in the house, cuh, this shit get violent
Better keep your mouth shut if we hear sirens
I'ma be on Death Row just like Suge Knight and 'nem

Honestly, the more I listen to this song the more I like it. I really fuck with this track sonically. The lyrics aren’t bad at all either though. They just aren’t really the main appeal of this song for me. I honestly don’t really have any gripes with this track. Maybe a feature could’ve elevated things a bit, but I’m not sure who I would put on this song. Let me think… Hmm… Maybe Westside Boogie. I feel like he would fit over this beat well. A remix with him on it would be fire. Anyway, the song is dope as hell to me, and easily my favorite track on the album. The following song is called DJ QUIK, and it features production from DJ Dahi, Nami & Coop the Truth. The beat is pretty dope. I like Vince’s flow on the first verse too, even though none of the lyrics really stand out that much to me. The hook on this track isn’t really anything special, but it serves its purpose as a break between the verses well enough. The second verse is pretty nice too.

Close your mouth when you talkin' to a killer, bitch
They say I murder cuh, I say I'm innocent
This ain't suburbia, these niggas ignorant
I always get my man, I only miss my bitch

The lyrics aren’t super thought-provoking or anything. It’s just typical gangsta shit. I think it’s well done enough though. I wouldn’t really use the word “highlight” to describe this song, but I definitely enjoyed it to some extent. With that said, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said it was some midpack. It’s good to me, but I can see how some might find it underwhelming. Track 4 is called MAGIC, and it was released as a single ahead of the album’s release.

The production from DJ Mustard of course sounds like something YG would prosper on. I’m not really a fan of Mustard’s production in general, but this beat isn’t bad. I really like the melodic hook from Vince on this track. The way the first verse starts kinda bothers me though. You know how bloods replace their C’s with B’s? Like how they say “bool” instead of “cool?” Well, since Vince is a crip he replaces his B’s with C’s. In particular, he keeps trying to make “citch” a thing, and it just does not work. It sounds stupid as hell.

If I gave a fuck about a citch, I'd always be broke
I'd never get to pull up in a Benz with my locs
Growin' up, we was poor, so we hopped off that porch
With a gun, tryna blow, tryna kick down your door

Aside from the “citch” thing I enjoyed the verse. The lyrics aren’t amazing or anything, and his flow isn’t too flashy, but he sounds good over this beat. I really like the way the second verse ends.

I just wanna be successful
You won't never ever see me with my head low
Momma met my daddy then they had me in the ghetto
Handed me a thirty-eight and told me I was special

The horns that come in for the outro are a nice touch. I actually think this is one of the best songs on the album. It’s pretty dope. The following track is called NAMELESS, and it’s a pretty good interlude. I mainly enjoy it for the production from Brazzen. The instrumental sounds really nice. It segues really smoothly into WHEN SPARKS FLY, which seems to be the most popular song from the album, and for good reason.

Not only is the concept of the song really well-executed, but the production from franO is really great as well. This is probably the best track on the album lyrically. It’s written like a love song, but if you pay attention you’ll realize that he’s rapping about his gun. It’s definitely the most inspired moment on the album lyrically. I wish every track on this album was as creative as this.

Never put you in a jam, hold whatever for you
When you first shot your shot, I knew you would be the one to hit the spot
Only you can make it clap for the homies, I am not
On the late nights, me and you, circling the block

The sample that franO flipped for the hook sounds really goddamn good. Honestly, this sounds like a Drake song. He would definitely rap over a beat like this. That’s not really a bad thing though. It’s more of an observation than a critique. I like how Vince switches to the perspective of the gun for the second verse. It’s something that’s been done a lot in the past by different rappers, but I think Vince did it well too.

Damn, can't believe they took you from me
Kickin' in your front door, lookin' for me
Hid me in our secret place
Nothing I could do for you but sit and wait, contemplate
Did we leave a trail? Did we make mistakes?
Can't drop on your bail, can't check on your case
Know that you won't tell, that's why I'm afraid
You'll probably never get to see the light of day

The writing isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s certainly more interesting than that of most of the other tracks. I think this song is really dope. The next track is called EAST POINT PRAYER, and it’s got a really nice beat from Jacob Reske & Kenny Beats. The hook is solid, and same goes for the first verse. I mean, nothing about the verse really stands out that much to me, but I think Vince sounds good over this beat. The second verse is performed by Lil Baby, whom I’ve hitherto been kind of averse to, but I’m starting to warm up to his music. I don’t really like his melodic delivery most of the time, nor do I care for his voice in general, but the dude can flow his ass off. He didn’t really snap on this track like I wanted him to, but I’d say I enjoyed his verse about as much as that of Vince. I feel like pretty much everything I said about DJ QUIK applies to this song. I like it to some extent, but wouldn’t be shocked at people calling it mid. The following song is called SLIDE, and it’s mediocre to me. I think the production from Zack Sekoff & Mike Hector is pretty good, but this track just feels really underwritten. The first verse isn’t very interesting at all, and the hook feels really lazy. It’s just him repeating the word “slide” over and over again. The second verse is definitely more interesting lyrically, but it’s only like 7 bars. He couldn’t even give us a full 8 bar verse. It’s an oddly scant track. Honestly, the more I listen to it, the more underwhelmed I am. It’s midpack. The following track is thankfully a lot better. It’s called PAPERCUTS, and it features production from DJ Dahi & Paul Castelluzzo. I think the beat is pretty great, and Vince’s writing on this song is way more interesting than that of the preceding track. I mean, that’s not really saying much, but still. He sounds really nice on the first verse, and the hook on this track is pretty good too. The second verse is arguably better than the first one.

Still thinkin' everyday about the one that got away
You know I'm crazy 'bout you, right?

According to Genius, this couplet is referring to a guy that he shot at and missed, but I’m not really sure how they came to that conclusion. The context of the surrounding lines doesn’t really lend itself to that theory. That would be cool as hell if that’s what Vince was going for though. Anyway, I think it’s a pretty good song overall, but, once again, I wouldn’t be shocked if someone told me it was mediocre to them. Track 10 is called LEMONADE, and it features Ty$. I think the production is pretty nice, but the hook isn’t really anything special to me. I like Vince’s flow on both of the verses, but none of the lyrics really stand out to me. I can’t help but feel like Ty$ was underutilized on this track too. He just pops in to spit one line in the first verse, and then is relegated to the outro. He should’ve been the one to sing the hook instead of Vince in my opinion. It’s a fine song overall. It’s just not particularly memorable. It’s not something I’m gonna be listening to again intentionally, but if it came on the radio I wouldn’t be in a rush to change the station. It’s okay. The following track is called PLAYER WAYS. This one’s pretty good to me. I like the melodic production a lot, and the hook is pretty solid. I actually think this song has some of the better writing on the album too.

I knew that you would never be mine
I knew that you was just one call away from pressin' decline
I knew that time was of the еssence, no one еver rewinds
You know the press is full of lies, so why you pressin' your line?
I know it eat you up inside to have to tell me the truth
Ain't no way you think I think she love me better than you
I think that nigga you be talkin' to be doin' too much
You wipe your tears in front the mirror, now you thinkin' 'bout us

The bars are actually pretty romantic to me. I particularly like that line about how he’ll keep her smiling from the sky if he dies. That was nice. His flow on the second verse was pretty nice too. The song isn’t amazing or anything, but I definitely enjoyed it to some extent. I think it’s pretty good. I unfortunately don’t really care for any of the remaining tracks on this album. None of them are particularly bad though. They just lack replay value for me. Track 12 is called MAMA’S BOY, and it’s solid. I like the production from Nami & Coop the Truth a lot. I think this song has one of the better hooks on the album too. Unfortunately the verses are just kind of a snoozefest to me. I mean, they’re sufficient I guess. They just aren’t really that interesting. Everything he says kinda goes in one ear and out the other. He sounds solid enough though. Like I said, it’s a decent track. It just isn’t something I feel the need to listen to more than once. BANG THAT features more production from DJ Mustard along with Johnny Juliano & Cardo. On my first listen, this was one of the weakest songs on the album to me. However, upon further reflection, I actually think this song has some of the album’s hardest lyricism.

Runnin' up a check, I'm tryna chase racks
Sendin' opps to Heaven, tell 'em "stay mad"
Say you not in lovе, set him up then
Soon as lil homiе learn the ropes he gettin' jumped in

I just don’t really care for the production on this track. The hook is also kinda dull to me. The second and third verses are pretty boring too. This song grew on me slightly after repeat listens, but it’s still pretty mediocre to me overall. It’s followed by an interlude called THE SPIRIT OF MONSTER KODY. It’s okay. I don’t like this interlude as much as the first one, but it’s not bad at all. It’s just audio of Sanyika Shakur talking about how society set him up to fail. I think the production from Saint Mino & Tommy Parker is decent. It’s not a bad skit at all, but it’s just not something I’m gonna be listening to again. It transitions pretty smoothly into the following track, ROSE STREET.

The production is pretty solid, and the first verse from Vince isn’t bad. The hook is decent too. However, the only aspect of the song that really impressed me was the second verse. I actually think he kinda killed that verse. His flow and rhymes were really nice.

Posted on the block, when it's war ain't no warning shots
Bullet hit his top, all his homies ran, his body dropped
You can't have my heart, but I promise you'll be in my thoughts
We don't go on dates unless I bring what keep me safe
I promise you you don't gotta stress, it's gon' be okay
Okay, I'm lying, living day by day
Just don't waste my time, is you here to stay?
Don't pay attention to the shit you hear 'em say

I wish he rapped that well on every track on this album. That’s probably the best verse on the whole project honestly. I really enjoyed it. However, the song as a whole isn’t really something that I’m likely to return to. The production and hook just aren’t that great to me. It’s a decent track overall. The closing song is called THE BLUES, and it features production from Mingo, who also produced the opening song. I think the beat is pretty nice. I like how there’s no percussion at all. I think this song has some of the best lyricism on the album too.

If I die on the way to give you my love
Please protect me from the world, forgive me for what I've done
This shit harder than I make it look, what have I become?
I ain't never been no open book, money made me numb

I unfortunately just don’t really care for the hook on this track. I mean, I don’t think it’s terrible or anything. I just wish it was a bit more creative. It’s just him repeating the last line of each verse over and over again. The song isn’t bad at all, but it’s not really that exciting. It’s a very lowkey way to end the album. I like it more now than I originally did when I first heard it, but it’s still not something that I’m gonna be returning to. It’s decent though.

This is a decent album. It’s definitely one of the weakest projects I’ve ever heard from Vince Staples though, which is sad because I had high hopes for it. I think RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART is a really cool title, but I don’t feel like he delivered. I was expecting a much sadder album honestly. At no point on this project does he really tell us how Ramona Park broke his heart. It’s just more typical gangsta shit. I was hoping that he’d delve into the horrors of street life, but this feels like more of a glorification of gang culture than anything. In the preamble of this review I mentioned that all of Vince Staples’ albums have a different sound, but that’s not really the case anymore. This just sounds like a direct sequel to his self-titled record from last year, which is kind of disappointing even though I liked that project. Honestly, I feel like Vince sounds kind of uninspired here. This album is nowhere near as ambitious as something like Summertime ’06. I hope his next project shows some more growth and is more sonically diverse. This was kind of a disappointment for me. It’s a solid album though. Obviously it’s very flawed, but there are some very good songs peppered in here. I think if you’re a fan of Vince you’ll appreciate this record to some extent, but this would be a pretty bad entry point for new listeners honestly. It’s just okay overall.

Favorite Song: AYE! (FREE THE HOMIES)
Least Favorite Song: Slide


Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.

Grade: C+

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