Have you heard of Vince Staples?
Probably not, but you probably have heard him.
He’s a rapper from Long Beach, California, who earned his stripes on tracks from Odd Future members, notably Earl Sweatshirt’s triumphant return, Doris. A split EP with Mac Miller solidified Staples as one to watch, placing him on XXL’s 2015 Freshman Class. In 2014, his debut EP Hell Can Wait dropped, and now his debut album is set for release on Def Jam.
The album in question, the double disc Summertime ‘06, is about Vince’s gangbanging experiences during the summer of 2006, just before things got bad for him and his friends. A bonified Crip, Staples has seen tumultuous times, all spoken about on this album, led by the single “Señorita”. Almost entirely produced by label mate No I.D. (Kanye West’s mentor), Staples doesn’t hold back on this truthful, gritty album, filled with songs to make you think, and bass to make you shake.
After a brief intro named after Vinces local park, Ramona Park, the album opens with “Lift Me Up”. A misleading intro gives way to dirty bass and hard drums, with Staples rapping about his life, the general theme on the album. Vince starts his verse with some poignant lyrics, echoing the sentiment of the following tracks;
“Hey, I’m just a nigga until I fill my pockets / And then I’m Mr. Nigga, they follow me while shoppin’”
It’s a club banger and a thinker, something that can be said of nearly the whole album.
“Norf Norf” comes up next, with a hook claiming “I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police”. No I.D. crafts a ringing melody with just bass, a haunting synth and some percussion noises. Vince dances all over, his flow energetic and his voice high, contrasting the sub-bass.
The next few songs are all similar – in a very good way. Staples now has his own sound, one that has to be heard. 808s and clanging percussion swell around sparse synths. Staples uses his voice almost as well as Kendrick Lamar does, but more restrained, more traditional hip-hop.
Jhené Aiko’s feature on “Lemme Know” is beautiful. She and Staples recite the same lines for most of the track, creating an atmosphere almost of romance, as if they were two lovers. The DJ Dahi production is fuller than No I.D.’s on previous tracks, but the constant of Vince Staples remains.
The highlight of the album comes towards the end of disc one. The current single, “Señorita”, opens with a bare, creepy piano. The beat drops with a high octane sample of rapper Future. The 808s shake the track, Vince’s voice raps with a fervour and passion to make this a live favourite.
The majority of the tracks on disc one are mid-tempo. You could dance to them, or you could chill to them, either works. But disc two takes things a little more uptempo. Tracks like Get Paid and 3230 are made for jumping around to. Vince is a rapper that knows club tracks sell – he needs a radio hit.
For a debut album, this is phenomenal. For an established artist, this is still a phenomenal album. Hip-hop has been missing someone like Staples. He says the same thing a lot of rappers are saying, but he puts a twist on it. In the same vein of Kendrick and co., Staples doesn’t brag about his gang life, he doesn’t put his past crimes on a pedestal for everyone to fawn over. He knows those times were dark, and this album’s soundscape reflects that. There’s been real gangsters who rap before, but now we have a reformed gangster rapping, almost ashamed of his time as a Crip. This record is honest and brutal, both lyrically and musically.
Vince Staples never wanted to be a rapper, he was coerced into it by Odd Future and Mac Miller. It makes these rhymes all the more special. While these beats go hard, it’s lines like; “sellin’ cocaine with my daddy out the Days Inn” that drag us all back to reality and help us realise that there’s substance to these bangers.
Summertime ‘06 is due to be released on June 30th, on Def Jam Recordings.