For those who have followed Vince Staples’ career, his debut LP is far from his first splash in the rap world. Since his voice first surfaced on Earl Sweatshirt’s self-titled debut in 2010, Vince has been a prominent name for half a decade; releasing two solo mixtapes, an EP, and landing a spot on 2015’s XXL Freshman Class. On his debut EP Hell Can Wait – released in October of 2014 – Vince seemed poised to become rap’s next breakout star as he crammed twenty minutes of whirring bass and hood tales into a solid seven-track project. His next big step: A full-length, double-disc, debut LP.
Vince Staples has always had a good ear for beats, but bringing in legendary producer No I.D. is a move that propels this project to another level. Additional help from Clams Casino (who provides the absolutely chilling “Norf Norf” instrumental), and DJ Dahi, promises a star-studded lineup, and the end result speaks for itself. The sonic impression left is extremely dark and gloomy. The throbbing bass and off-kilter percussions offer an extremely desolate feel that Vince takes advantage with his tight falsetto flow. Whether it’s the pulsating bass on “Lift Me Up”, the minimalistic claps backing the line: “I ain’t never ran from nothing but the po-lice” on “Norf Norf”, the chilling Polish vocal sample on “Jump Off The Roof”, or Future’s gunshot sound effect that runs through the chorus and extends into Vince’s verse on “Señorita”, the soundscape that Vince is backed with gives him an impressive platform to rap over.
Vince’s rapping ability has never been questioned. His high-pitched voice and extremely tight flow gives him a truly unique sound that is perfectly complimented with the minimalistic production approach. On Summertime ‘06 his performance on the mic is more of the same. His extremely fluent flow is best showcased at the end of his third verse on “Norf Norf”: “Park Ramona, pop blocked a corner / Givin’ hell ’til it’s frozen over, I ain’t never ran from nothin’” or on “Senorita”: “Snitch get a full clip and closed casket / Won’t hug your bitch, when the ho ratchet / Cold jumper, been shootin’, no practice / Been tourin’, whip foreign, coupe crashin’”. From the surface it just sounds like generic gangster talk, but Vince can come off as surprisingly conscious when he wants to be. He gives James Faulteroy and Haneef Talib an entire track to speak on injustices in our society (“Might Be Wrong”). On “C.N.B.” he tackles racism, poverty, and violence in an extremely chauvinistic manner; perfectly suitable for Vince’s style. Finally, on the actualized closing track – “Like It Is” – Vince streams verse after verse of self-realization; none more powerful than, “Do doves cry when the black man dies? Or do we croak with the crows?” to being the second verse.
The album is not without flaws, however. Keeping an audience engaged for a full two discs is a feat that has only been accomplished by the all-time greats of the genre. As the second half rolls along Vince’s subject matter becomes rather repetitive. Prior to his release, Staples posted the cover art along with an emotional caption on his Instagram page. Part of it read:
“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.”
However, as the album concludes, it is realized that Vince never really tells this story. Instead he falls back into an old habit of doing traditional gangster rap – something that Vince has frequently offered throughout his career. On “Like It Is” Vince asserts that he needs to rise from his environment and go beyond it. However, because much of the second disc is bloated with familiar subject matter, we’re left to wonder what Vince is rising from. To put it in simplest terms: What happened during the summer of 2006?
I maintain the opinion that Vince didn’t make an album which places him in the discussion of the rap elite. However, this is still an outstanding project. A double album is an ambitious task to say the least, and for a twenty-two year old to make one of this quality – well – it’s remarkable. It bodes well for the future of Vince Staples and hip-hop in general. Despite the dark nature that looms over the entirety of Summertime ‘06, the future remains very bright for the young Long Beach native.
1. Ramona Park Legend, Pt. 1 – 4
2. Lift Me Up – 4.5
3. Norf Norf – 4.5
4. Birds & Bees (feat. Daley) – 4
5. Loca – 4
6. Lemme Know (feat. Jhené Aiko & DJ Dahi) – 4
7. Dopeman (feat. Joey Fatts & Kilo Kish) – 4
8. Jump off the Roof (feat. Snoh Aalegra) – 4.5
9. Senorita – 4.5
10. Summertime – 3.5
1. Ramona Park Legend, Pt. 2 – 3.5
2. 3230 – 4
3. Surf (feat. Kilo Kish) – 3.5
4. Might Be Wrong (feat. Haneef Talib) -3.5
5. Get Paid (feat. Desi Mo) – 3.5
6. Street Punks – 3
7. Hang N’ Bang (feat. A$ton Matthews) – 3
8. C.N.B. – 3.5
9. Like It Is – 4
10. ‘06 – 4
Song Quality: 7.7/10
Overall: 40.3/50 (80.6%)