I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Prague, but the historically rich capital of the Czech Republic boasts enough historical landmarks, cultural sites and sumptuous cuisine to merit any avid traveler a visit.
So reading the title of Vince Staples and Michael Uzowuru’s latest mixtape, Winter in Prague, lean expectations toward a project equally as interesting or as captivating as the city that graces its name. What does take place is instead an end product that seems to have no actual connection with Prague, winter or any cohesive, focused direction at all.
Former Odd Future affiliate Vince Staples has amassed a decent amount of buzz due to several features with the Los Angeles hip-hop collective, most notably for his verse on Earl Sweatshirt’s highly praised 2010 debut on the track “epaR” and for his own mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1 Mixtape, which he dropped earlier this year.
Vince’s verse on the song was clever, witty, haunting, humorous and dark, with a dexterously agile flow that painted quite the gruesome picture, but the unfortunate reality is that none of those characteristics are present on this project.
The intro track opens up in contrast to the flow Vince spit on “epaR” with a lazily enunciated delivery that sounds extremely subdued to the point that listeners lose any interest in what he’s saying. Lines like “I’m sick in my thoughts and sick in my soul” are wasted as he never actually delves into such thoughts. He instead spews line after arbitrary line about guns and violence without any context or well-told storytelling to give any weight or meaning. throughout the tape, Staples attempts to capture the sadistic, rape driven psycho persona that he embodied on “epaR,” but fails to deliver the vivid imagery that made that verse so memorable.
The only consistency Staples exudes throughout the mixtape are sub par violent, misogynistic lyrics delivered with a slithering, struggling flow that many times gets lost in the similarity of the laid-back beats he raps over. Of course, the violence and misogyny are not the issue with Vince’s content; other artists, such as Odd Future or Danny Brown have those very themes in their music, but the difference between them and Vince Staples is that their approach, aesthetic, flows captivate and demand that the listener care about what they’re saying.
When Staples attempts at what he believes are concept driven songs such as “Lord” and “Twitch,” they end up falling into those two main categories: violence and misogyny- due to underdeveloped and misguided lyrics that simply require more effort. Just because someone names a track “Lord” and puts violent verses in between a hook that goes “She said to pray to sweet Lord Jesus/But he can’t do shit when you bleedin'” doesn’t develop some complex and religiously strained relationship with whatever Vince believes in. The only time Vince sounds awake with a little faster flow is on the song “Twitch,” but the song still falls short of trying hard to address women’s issues.
As for the production handled entirely by Michael Uzowuru, it ranges from mediocre to average at best. The female vocals in the background of “Waterpark” are enjoyable and the urgency on the track “Traffic” is a nice contrast to Vince Stable’s much more relaxed inflection in his voice.
If Vince worked with a producer who crafted beats with more upbeat tempos or aggression, then perhaps I would actually give a shit for what Vince is talking about. Also, the arrangement of violins and flutes samples, synths and clacking snares on the instrumental “Mattress” was quite beautiful, but the song never went anywhere.
When Winter in Prague comes to mind, the word I immediately think of is forgettable. An idea, personality, story, and culpable sense of entertainment were all lacking, which is a shame because I know Vince’s skill is of a higher caliber than this.