Album Review: Vince Staples, “Summertime ’06”

Vince Staples Summertime ’06
(Def Jam – June 30, 2015)
(Rap)
Review by Brandon Foster

 

“Summer of 2006, the beginning of the end of everything I thought I knew. Youth was stolen from my city that summer, and I’m left alone to tell the story. This might not make sense, but that’s because none of it does, we’re stuck. Love tore us all apart.”- Vince Staples

 
After playing sidekick to Earl Sweatshirt and releasing two critically acclaimed projects in 2014 (“Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 and the “Hell Can Wait” EP), Vince Staples is now ready to drop his major label release “Summertime ‘06”. Expectations are high for the LBC (Long Beach, California) native. After dropping stellar verses on Earl Sweatshirts “Doris” and “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside”), making the XXL Freshman cover, and being signed to Def Jam by legendary hip-hop producer No I.D. (Kanye West’s mentor and worked extensively with Common throughout his career), the stakes are high. Staples along with guys like Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Freddie Gibbs are the new torch bearers for gangsta rap. Staples has a tough road to follow, those other guys are almost too good at their craft. What does Staples bring to the table that is different? Summertime ‘06 is a double album consisting of 20 tracks and runs a little under an hour. While this is super short for a double album, it still suffers from running a tad bit long and could have been shaved down.For an album with 20 tracks, there are only 5 producers throughout – No I.D., DJ Dahi (Kendrick Lamar “Money Trees” and Big Sean “IDFWU”), Clams Casino (Lil B “I’m God”, ASAP Rocky “Wassup”), Christian Rich (Drake “Pound Cake”), and Brian Kidd. These producers formulate cohesion on this dense album filled with 808 cowbells and killer drums.

Staples, just like his, contemporaries is gangbanging on wax. However, there is more of a sense of emotion and innocence. While this album is filled with gangsta shit, there is a lot of insight and commentary accompanying it specifically on “Norf Norf” and “C.N.B.”. “Birds & Bees” might as well serve as a modern day gangbanger’s manifesto with lines like “We runnin’ ‘round the city, east, west, and the north/G check, better leap if you feelin’ froggy”.

“Lemme Know” features new age goddess Jhene Aiko and producer DJ Dahi. The beat is super bombastic with Aiko and Staples both singing the verses in unison about a woman Staples has fallen in love with. The lines between love and sex are blurred that you are not sure it’s lust, infatuation, or coveted love. The next song is “Dopeman” featuring Joey Fatts and Kilo Kish. While this beat knocks something serious and sounds like 50,000 bandos cooking up something magical at one time, it also has an easy accessibility to it with Kish’s lush vocals gracing the hook. This is something D-Boys and Hipsters both can get with. While “Lemme Know” deals with the love of sex and “Dopeman” deals with the love of drug dealing and money; “Jump Off The Roof” is an ugly middle ground of both of those tracks and deals with a love affair dependent on drug abuse. Staples digs himself in such a hole that the only way Staples sees any peace out of this situation is ending it all.

“Summertime” is a break between the extremes but Clams Casino melancholy beat kind of says otherwise. Staples California drawl is slurred breaks down the dichotomy of what black kids are taught when they are younger.

“Might Be Wrong” is a highlight of the album as Staples is really not featured in the song. James Fauntleroy (hip-hop’s “it” boy hook man at the moment) sings the hook and we get perspective by an unknown artist named Haneef Talib. The song explores the murder rates and crime going on in the world and offers up solutions to the growing problem. There are more questions being asked than possible answers – symbolizing an innate hopelessness.

Snoop Dogg made Long Beach popular in the rap world. He was also a gangbanger and told his story the best way he knew how. Staples is from the same city, part of the same gang Snoop was a part of (different sets) but he is telling a different story. One thing that Staples is doing is showing that not every thug is the same. While Staples is not as smooth as Freddie Gibbs, not as killer on the mic as Jay Rock, and not as groovy as Schoolboy Q; he has found a way to create his own lane. I think with the help of No I.D., Staples has almost found a way to bridge the gap. Summertime ‘06 is a journey into a young man’s life – a life with mistakes but also a life aimed at rectifying the wrongs. However, there is a strong sense of innocence and vulnerability, something not atypical of rappers. While he accepts the life of gangbanging, you can’t help but to think his situation was already predestined because both of his parents were outside of the law. There is never a sense of heroism with Staples. He is just a pawn in a war, something he both recognizes and accepts. Now if he could just find a way out.

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