You can’t knock a guy for betting big on himself. After years of steadily gearing up for his shot at the big time with notable guest verses and mixtapes, Long Beach, Calif.’s Vince Staples goes all-in on his sprawling double-LP commercial debut, and the returns are decent if not world-beating. The ex-Odd Future rapper is lyrically sharp, but more than anything a master of atmosphere; he radiates a cool menace against fellow rapper Future’s paranoid trap chants on “Señorita” and the stripped-down desperation of “Get Paid,” while his flow on “Norf Norf” weaves in and out of Clams Casino’s wheezing synths and bass. Stellar production throughout, led by Kanye West mentor No ID, helps individual cuts to stand out even when tepid hooks or redundant lyrics push Staples’s performance into the background; see the crisp arrangements on the bubbly pop cut “Lemme Know” with Jhene Aiko, or the minimalist thump of “Street Punks.” Staples may not have vaulted to the front of the line, but he’s certainly made up ground. (Out Tuesday)
Martín CaballeroESSENTIAL “Norf Norf” Martín Caballero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.