“Money made me numb,” Vince Staples repeats over and over again on “THE BLUES,” from his fifth full-length studio album. It’s not the song’s chorus and you can picture him saying it in the mirror, attempting to reckon with a truth he clearly understands but also maybe doesn’t quite know what to do with. At the time of RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART’s release, the Long Beach, California, MC was more popular and financially successful than he’s ever been. So, he chose—beginning with 2021’s Vince Staples—to release some of the most affecting and autobiographical music of his career. The decision sounds, across the album, much less a professional risk than a personal one, Staples utilizing production from Mustard, Cardo, and Coop the Truth, among others, to expose his innermost thoughts about turf politics, romantic relationships, and the ways money may or may not be changing him. More than anything else, he aims to honor those who have in some way contributed to his survival, often calling them out by name, holding especially close the memories of those no longer in his orbit. “Tryna make it to the top, we can’t take everybody with us,” he sings on “THE BEACH.” There are few artists who come off as comfortable as Staples does regarding their contributions to music culture at large, but what RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART makes abundantly clear is that few things mean as much to Staples’ art as the neighborhood that made him.

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