L.A. rapper Vince Staples’ impressive new release, Ramona Park Broke My Heart, is a therapeutic hip hop documentary that showcases Staples’ personal evolution as well as the painful and traumatic baggage past experiences can bring. The album zeros in on the parts of Staple’s story and experiences that matter, making it almost like a eulogy for his stolen youth, a life doused in gang culture that he never shies away from discussing in his impressive catalogue of music.
The new album presents a more polished Staples, with sharp and colourful production, catchy melodic hooks and features from Lil Baby & Ty Dolla Sign.
With so much hip hop revolving around the same, tiresome production that’s drenched in autotune, Staples continues to rebel against traditional, commercialized hip hop — instead, he’s always comfortable tethering between mainstream and underground.
Staples doesn’t pander to hip hop cliches, forgoing autotune, glorification of gang violence, expensive jewellery, the objectification of women and the flaunting of money. Instead, Staples successfully relies on his storytelling ability blended with his creative lyricism and an ear for beats that flow well.
Staples has never veered away from the braggadocious hip hop sound that started on his CONS EP. And he stays true to his L.A. roots on Ramona Park. DJ Mustard, who helped on the earlier release, handles some production on the new album.
East Point Prayer, featuring Lil Baby, is an album standout — the pain in Staples’ vocals echos not only on this song but throughout the new release. The album is a vivid documentation of a young Black man’s journey through the dysfunction he not only witnessed but also experienced growing up. Staples’ delivery between each line is mellow, straight to the point and complemented by Lil Baby’s fluid lyrics.
Staples’ music continues to vividly, sometimes painfully, portray the life of a youth growing up surrounded by poverty and gang violence. Staples looks back with survivor’s guilt, having reached adulthood, made a successful career and moved on from Long Beach, CA.
Ramona Park Broke My Heart allows Staples to reflect on the positive lessons, experiences and memories of his youth — not just the negative aspects of growing up poor and Black in the “hood.” The album truly shows the good and the bad of growing up struggling to get by and, ultimately, could be considered Staples’ best album yet.