Vince Staples may crack us all up, but ain’t shit funny. Despite a penchant for bone-dry bon mots that has him widely regarded as one of the funniest rappers out—as his frequent appearance in this thread attests to—Staples is quick to stress that he’s never joking. For anyone who thinks the Long Beach rapper doth protest too much, look no further than this recent clip where he’s asked to give his thoughts on the Drake versus Kendrick Lamar beef—instead of enabling the culture’s thirst for bloodsport, he pivots to make a point about the conflict being just a distraction from the very real issue of labels and DSPs robbing artists blind.

Case in point for how serious things are in Vince’s world: his new album, out today, is called Dark Times; the pitch-black cover art has a faintly discernible image of a noose. “It’s a testament to where I am right now and how I view things—it’s just a timestamp,” Staples said in a press release for the project. “I might not feel like that again tomorrow. But in the process of making this project, these were the things that spoke to me.”

So, on an album that features gut-wrenching tracks like “Government Cheese”— where Staples mourns his older brother and reflects on putting on a sunny disposition for the homies checking in from jail— a song like “Étouffée” is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Over a lively New Orleans-bounce infused beat (the title is a reference to a Creole dish), Staples doesn’t stray from the rest of the album’s subject matter, but he’s less remorseful. He reflects on his journey, his hood, and his friends—standing tall in the face of the streets, greedy labels, and ungrateful fans—with a more celebratory attitude, pleasantly surprised he made it this far. It all comes together on a rousing hook that connects the New Orleans references with shoutouts to the Big Tymers, B.G. and No Limit Records. (Give the track bonus points for featuring co-production from Jay Versace, who continues to surprise as one of the game’s most underrated beatmakers, a far cry from his days as a Vine character.)

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