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Frankie Caracciolo wrote this while amped up on two cans of Sprite.
It’s a sunny afternoon in North Long Beach and East 65th is hot. Consider “FUN!” a hood update of a Dutch Renaissance canvas. Kids are getting beat up and arrested. Thieving, dancing, mourning, mobbing. And it’s all going down via a Google Maps street view supplied by none other than Vincent Staples, the premier chronicler of Southern California street life and the voyeuristic tendencies of the white people who gawk at it.
The visuals for “FUN!” are shot as if we were creeping through the computer, which is in turn spying on us in real life. We follow Vince at a close distance, moving in jumps, slides, and swiveling turns, rubbernecking at all the commotion. It’s the latest chapter artfully exploring themes that he’s investigated over the last half-decade. You saw it through the eyes of a child in “Nate,” through the cop-befuddling gateway in “Screen Door,” and in “Señorita,” his most jarring visual, from the POV of a wholesome white family who are quietly watching internecine warfare as a weekend pastime.
Instead of a welcome mat, we see the North through digital portals. The blocks surrounding Ramona Park may fascinate those outside it, but there are always consequences. Vince takes dead-aim: “My black is beautiful but I’ll still shoot at you, dawg.”
The music video preserves the visual oddities of Google’s street captures like the stuttering jumps in movement and the glitchy bodies of folks who were moving by the roving camera. In one instance, with Vince mobbing with his crew near the video’s end, a pitbull disappears completely from the shot as the camera pivots to a new angle and no one seems to notice. With so much action on the block, it’s the little details Vince reworked in “FUN!” that exaggerates the Google Maps filter with a distinctively Poppy St. perspective.
The credits and copyright info in the bottom right corner are re-written. There’s a one-stop click to “Call the police” instead of the usual “Report a Problem” function. But there’s no safety issue here, just a darkly comic riff on the alarm that might theoretically cross the mind of someone scanning the action transpiring on the block.
As we make our way to Ramona Park, the central lyrical shift in the song illustrates that being surveilled (even digitally) won’t stop East 65th from enjoying themselves. The first time we hear it the chorus goes: “We just wanna have fun / We don’t wanna fuck up nothin’.” As we watch the jumble of different acts play out, the incautious behavior—a madcap manifestation from growing up poor and of color in America—triggers a shift in the refrain: “Fun, we don’t wanna fuck up nothin’ / And we don’t give a fuck ‘bout nothin’.” Not giving a fuck is license enough for the uninhibited energy and middle fingers up bleak humor.
To Google is human. Without having to physically leave our bedrooms, tech interposes on our behalf, bringing us to whatever rap-world fantasies we search for. And while we’re watching Vince in “FUN!” he’s watching us right back. Wanting to see what some gangster shit actually looks like, Vince permits us a vicarious trip—“One time, circling the block,” goes the opening bar—of North Long Beach. We get to look but without any anonymity typical to clandestine internet browsing. Knowing how tactlessly at times white fans of hip-hop want to comfortably approximate rappers’ experiences, Vince denies our blameless ogling, glaring right back us, reminding us of two-sided truths once again.