RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART Is Vince Staples’ Most Relaxed Record to Date


Eli Robinson, Staff Writer

Vince Staples has made a name for himself in the hip hop scene with his one-of-a-kind delivery and staunch accounts of his personal experience growing up in Long Beach California. This latest release deepens an already cemented relationship between Staples and his hometown, while exploring the perils of such a bond. 

Staples gives his audience a thematic selection of beats on this project. There is a clear attentiveness to detail in the production which is all very understated from front to back. This has been shown to be one of his strengths as his self titled project was similarly subtle. Despite each beat being similar in tone, for the most part they don’t sedate the listener. This tone allows Staples’ charisma shine through and his lyrical content be on display. My favorite instrumentals on this project come from tracks such as “LEMONADE”,” PAPERCUTS”, and “PLAYER WAYS”. The production on these tracks is so ethereal and makes the listener feel like they are floating in a pool on a summer day, without a care in the world. The Ty Dolla $ign feature on LEMONADE also compliments the vibe that Staples created. 

The theme of heartbreak and lost love is established through the album title, as well as very early on in the tracklist. In, “AYE!(FREE THE HOMIES)”, Staples lays down some bars of his struggles in Ramona Park such as, “I done seen it all, bloodshot eyes. Broke my heart, then decided that I’m still outside.” The violent lifestyle Staples describes keeps roping him back in, even though it has betrayed him many times as he later states he has lost friends to a similar lifestyle. The groovy instrumental of this track resembles the first single from this album, “MAGIC ”, with a similar bounce and laid back feel that is unapologetically g-funk influenced. 

This theme of love and heartbreak comes truly to fruition on the track WHEN SPARKS FLY where Staples writes a heartfelt love song between a gun and its holder. This interesting perspective makes for an array of clever connections to be made from an actual relationship and the relationship between a man and his gun; this includes the heartbreak. My favorite comparison made is when Staples raps, “I’m ashamed to say I think I hate you now. We should’ve took ’em on a chase ’cause I can’t save you now. At least give me a chance to try to lay ’em down. Is you trippin’? You forgettin’ that we made these vows?” This part of the song is reminiscent of “I Gave you Power” by Nas as both tracks take the perspective of a weapon, but they differ in tone and sentiment. In Staples’ rendition, the gun is calling out to its holder that has been locked up. The love hate relationship displayed in this track is exasperated by the dejected vocal sample in the instrumental. This serves as the perfect backdrop for this story of heartbreak. 

The theme doesn’t end there as “PLAYER WAYS” and “ROSE STREET” discuss the struggles Vince faces in  human relationships. He shares his struggle with finding real love due to his “player ways” and in the chorus even says that he is content with this, but contradicts himself in his second verse where he pleads for forgiveness to a partner. This creates conflict between what he may truly feel and the persona he may be trying to put forward of someone who doesn’t need love. This persona is on full display in “ROSE STREET” where he raps about love in an incredibly sarcastic tone. For example he says, “She said she in love, what’s that? Trust, what’s that? Us, what’s that? Yeah.” and starting the song with, “I don’t sing no love songs.” As a single this may seem like a boastful track about valuing money over relationships, but in the context of the album it seems more like overcompensation from someone who was hurt. 

The love theme that has developed was left a bit untied towards the end of the record, but that was fixed by the closing track “THE BLUES” This song is an expression of the mixed feelings that Staples is dealing with. He expresses guilt from the entrapments that he fell into with “street life” but at the same time feeling as though he may have lost a piece of himself on his road to success. The final verse of this track is an epiphany for the listener. The section that stands out to me is this: “Movin’ on from what you love. Knowin’ you won’t ever get them feelings back. Heart broke but your ego’s still intact.” This line makes it  seem like he is battling internally. One part of himself wants to stay in his hometown and continue living like he used to, and a part of him is ready to move on. This album feels like an effort to find the perfect balance between the two. 

Overall, this album sonically, although a bit repetitive at times, is superbly intoxicating. The delivery of Vince matches the casual feel of the instrumentals, and makes the lyrical content feel familiar even though you haven’t experienced it first hand. The only major downfall of this album is that such a laid back tone leads to some tracks feeling like they are meant to lull the audience to sleep. The real strength of this album is its tone, but it works against it at times, specifically in the tracks “MAMA’S BOY”, and “DJ QUIK” which fall off the edge of being too relaxed to the point that they become boring. Despite some tracks feeling this way, Vince Staples executes so many others so well that the flaws fall to the back of my mind in my reflection of this album. Staples’ fifth studio album is another gem to add to an already consistent discography.