Four days after announcing something was on the horizon, Vince Staples released an 11-track project, FM!, on Friday. It clocks in at a brief 22 minutes, and features a full roster of California artists: Ty Dolla Sign, Jay Rock, Earl Sweatshirt, Kamaiyah, E-40, Tyga, and Kehlani—who collectively rep Los Angeles and the Bay Area. FM! was also largely produced by the L.A.-based (and extremely prolific) Kenny Beats.
The first thing we hear on the album is radio static and the sound of channel hopping. After a few seconds, the dial lands on Big Boy’s Neighborhood. Throughout the album, the radio theme persists (which is fitting, given the title). The radio personalities of the well-respected, L.A.-based Big Boy's Neighborhood (Big Boy himself plus Ayydé Vargas, Neighborhood associate Sketchomatic, and others) are threaded throughout the project. They act as their regular selves: energetic, silver-tongued, and proficient at keeping things moving.
The inclusion of one of the most popular radio shows in L.A. cements Vince’s dedication to keeping things strictly California. Remembering the moment Vince came to him with the idea, Big Boy says, "Vince just kind of sat down and he was like, “Aye, you know, this is the concept that I have of my album. It’s very Los Angeles. I just wanted it to feel like it’s fun, no matter what time of the year it is. L.A. is always giving those kinds of vibes.”
On the day of the album's release, Complex spoke with Big Boy to find out how elements of the West Coast pillar of a program found their way to the project. He broke down how Vince initially approached him to be a part of the album, what it feels like to be immortalized on a rap album, and whether he’s heard more than 35 seconds of “New earlsweatshirt” and “Brand New Tyga.”
When did Vince reach out?
Vince reached out to me probably in July.
What did he say?
It was light at first. Vince and his manager Corey [Smyth] had kind of reached out, and they wanted to have a meeting with me. All they said is that they wanted to do something with the album. When they came up to the station, Vince just kind of sat down and he was like, “Aye, you know, this is the concept that I have of my album. It’s very Los Angeles. I just wanted it to feel like it’s fun, no matter what time of the year it is. L.A. is always giving those kinds of vibes.” Like, L.A. is always on kind of a summer vibe. He said he wanted to make an album that just kept that vibe going through it.
They were talking about a “Big Boy type,” and then he said one of his guys—maybe even Corey—was like, “Man, why don’t you just reach out to Big Boy?” He was thinking like, “Man, Big’s not gonna do it.” So, when he hit me up and we were talking in there, I was like, “Yeah man, shit. I’ll do it. Definitely. Let me know what’s going down.” I remember they had to go to Japan and we had kind of squared it off in the room: “Whatever the capacity is, I’m with you. Let’s get some things together.” So when they came back from Japan, that’s when we kind of started putting things together to try to get into the studio to record something.
Bro, we gotta have the whole Neighborhood in so I can ring the bells and do ‘Big Boyyyy!’ and all that kind of stuff.
When he approached you, did he have concepts in mind? What was he going for specifically?
Yeah, Vince definitely already had a concept in mind. It was like, if you were just in Los Angeles and going throughout your day, listening to the radio, going to a barbecue, hanging out, hanging with the homies—whatever it may be. But he did have a concept before he even approached me. He knew what he wanted that project to sound like, and so it was kind of like, “Big could fit the vibe,” but the concept was already there. It wasn’t like we sat down and we totally built something. It was just, if I was a piece that he felt like he wanted to have [be] part of that project, then that’s why they reached out.
Were you aware of how very, very L.A. and California-centric this project was going to be?
You know what? I kind of felt it when he was talking about it, but I didn’t really know the size of it until we got in the studio and listened to some of the songs and had more dialogue about what he wanted. Because I was thinking at first, “Does he just want me to enter on a couple of songs or do whatever?” So our first sit-down, he had a nice, big studio, so on and so forth. And when he got in there and he really started telling me the records and what he wanted to do, I was there by myself. So I was saying, “Man, if we’re going to do this the way that you’re speaking... Bro, we gotta have the whole Neighborhood in so I can ring the bells and do ‘Big Boyyyy!’ and all that kind of stuff.” And I needed my guys to put the production elements together. He was like, “Man, whatever you feel comfortable with, but that’s exactly what I want.”
You guys are a really big part of this album. What does that say to you about the legacy of Big Boy’s Neighborhood?
Even speaking on air this morning, it’s just crazy. When I was asked to do the FM! project, I was humbled and I was honored. Not like, “Yeah man, I am Big Boy. This is the voice of L.A., you should.” I tripped out that someone thought, “Man, we need to get Big Boy.” That is crazy to me that if somebody says, “This has to sound L.A.” and you think, “We gotta get Big Boy.” I can’t get used to that. Even though I’ve been on the radio for like 25 years in L.A., I can’t get used to that. That tripped me out.
Even last night when the album dropped, I was at a soccer game; thousands upon thousands of people there. I’m sitting there with my phone to my ear, listening to my tracks and trippin’ off from it and taking screenshots. When I started in radio, like shit... Vince could have been a baby, you know what I’m saying? So to be included in something that he thought was so L.A. and to think that Big Boy’s Neighborhood or Big Boy is that iconic voice and for him to actually hit me up, that’s crazy. I don’t read my own press releases and I don’t read this and I don’t read that. It’s when people tell you or when people come up and say, “I’ve been listening to you for years,” or “I need your voice,” or “This is the project.” You have to think, that’s Vince’s baby. He put a lot of work into that album and for him to ask me to be a part of that—to be a part of his creation and of his legacy? That shit is dope as hell to me. I’ll take it. I’m humbled, but I’m like, shit. I’ll take it.
I was curious about the “interludes”: “New earlsweatshirt” and “Brand New Tyga.” Have you heard more than 20 to 30 seconds of these songs?
Not at all. I didn’t even hear those until I heard the completed project last night. But, I did know that something was gonna be on there because Ayydé did the intro for the Tyga record. I remember being in the studio and doing that. I don’t know if I had [caught] wind of the Earl Sweatshirt, but I know that I didn’t hear 30 seconds or even more of that song.
What does this album sound like to you? What do you visualize?
It sounds like what certain things used to sound like to me back in the day, and it’s not just because I’m a part of it. I think that it’s sequenced well. And just being new to it, also. Like, I’m rolling to it. Just last night, just rolling to it, listening to some of the songs in the studio. It just sounds like an album. I think that’s what he wanted to create, where you’re not just punching around on songs. It’s also where the intro is coming out of an outro.
So, from what I’ve gathered, he wanted complete album listening. That’s what I get off of this album. We’re so single heavy now. We're so track heavy and so one-and-done, that people aren’t trying to put a body of music together. It’s just, “I wanna put this out. I wanna eat right now.” I think that he made a project and it feels like that. Here we are in November and shit—it feels like summer.