Release Date: Jun 30, 2015
Record label: Def Jam
Vince Staples doesn’t want your sympathy. He’s the latest in an increasing long line of modern rappers whose bleak view of human nature trumps any good intentions he may have about his surroundings. The 21 year old paints a vivid portrait of misrerabilist prejudice, lacking any sense of humor whatsoever and spouting rhymes with cool nonchalance.
Editor’s note: It has been brought to SPIN’s attention that this review, published last week, includes factual inaccuracies about Staples (such as an implication about drug use) and language that has been interpreted as stereotypical or racially insensitive. We regret these oversights during the editing process, take full responsibility for the error in judgment, and apologize to anyone who was offended. Vince Staples is hardly the ingratiating type.
Almost a year before the lead video from Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06 was released he seemed to be hammering out the concept during interviews. “The way I look at music—especially urban music, Black-people music, whatever you want to call it—is that we’re all in the zoo, and the listeners are the people outside of the cage,” he told Pitchfork. “You got all these people sitting outside the glass and it’s cool to point at the lion and shit,” Staples said a few months later in an interview with HipHopDX.
It could be said that a rose grew out of the California concrete in the summer of 2006, and rose again in June 2015 through the album, 'Summertime '06. Def Jam signee Vince Staples' debut album dives deep into a life most children at the age of 13 shouldn't see, one shadowed by drugs and gangs in the streets of Long Beach, but also framed by hope and persistence. "They never taught me how to be a man, only how to be a shooter," Staples raps nonchalantly on the title single, "Summertime.
Summertime '06 crams 20 songs inside an hour and when it ends Vince Staples is somehow still mid-sentence. The heavy-lidded, preternaturally calm Long Beach rapper has always seemed to have a remarkable amount on his mind, with more to say than he has room for: The last line on "Taxi", the final track of his first full mixtape, 2011’s Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, ended in a similar fashion, with a freezing bucket of water—"Tried praying for forgiveness, but God told me to shut up"—before the music simply stopped.
It's hard to believe Vince Staples is only 22. His interviews sound like they're coming from a tired, middle-aged man who's seen it all. And that's how his lyrics are too—he touches on the usual tropes of gangster rap (drugs, money, violence, women), but it's with a weariness of someone who grew up in the middle of it (he was raised in Long Beach, Calif.).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Fighting to break the cycle of violence is an oxymoronic task, deemed unsurmountable when environments remain unchanged. But for Long Beach rapper Vince Staples, the battle is fuelled by a dutiful incentive deemed greater than him. And for that, Vince Staples isn't going anywhere - not from the rap game or from the heated streets that raised him.
Vince Staples :: Summertime '06Def JamAuthor: Zach 'Goose' GaseVince Staples, at 22, is wise beyond his years. This wisdom is both his greatest strength as a writer and a trait that makes his work a tough listen. His attention to detail in the graphic stories of some of the bleakest moments of his teenage years makes for poignant verses and songs. But over the course of a full-length album, Vince Staples' nihilistic views on a troubled world can be a bit of a downer.
Blowing the promise of his Hell Can Wait EP into an extraordinary double LP, Summertime '06 finds rapper Vince Staples with all the pieces in place. His delivery is still sneering and steady with a slight sway that suggests he's stoned, but like pop gangstas Chief Keef or Future, he can craft a memorable melody out of chopped-up nonsense. Check the infectious "Senorita" for proof, but also check the brilliant "Lift Me Up" for Staples as the elevated rap writer, offering an uncompromising gangsta stance that's both classic ("They follow me while shoppin") and pushing the envelope (Staples tears down a list of fashion labels that don't respect their urban audience).
There’s a moment in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ forthcoming book about race in America when he recalls realising how dangerous his upbringing in West Baltimore was, compared to that of the children he saw on TV “who did not regularly fear for their bodies”. Vince Staples’ debut album paints a world that is definitely in the former camp. Brooding, menacing and unnerving, it’s a myopic, unflinching look at life around his Long Beach locale.
From the production to his lyrics, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples’ music is all about stark force. His debut full-length Summertime ‘06 hitches together the raw energy and determination of a mixtape with the cohesion and high production value of a blockbuster album, but even beyond the brusque touches of a rising freshman, the most impressive aspect of the record is how real Staples makes it feel. He pulls no punches: “I been through hell and back, I seen my momma cry / Seen my father hit the crack then hit the set to flip the sack / I done seen my homies die then went on rides to kill them back / So how you say you feel me when you never had to get through that?” he reflects on “Like it Is”, tearing down throwaway pop-rap music and his more privileged and socially indifferent followers in one fell swoop.
Vince Staples, it can be argued, is top five today in terms of pure lyricism. Since his guest spot on Earl Sweatshirt's "epaR" in 2010, Vince has been burning damn near every song he's been featured on. He followed that string of features with solo mixtapes filled with dark humor and unrelenting honesty, further proving his prowess behind the mic. All of that has led him to this point.
No matter how nimble their flow, rappers have to breathe. There’s an audible drawing in of air between lines, a breaking point between bars. At moments on Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06, that breath seems like a desperate gasp, like the Long Beach MC just spit up something dark and oily. Alternately, there are times when it seems he has no need for air, walking slowly, zombie-like, through the brutal reality of his life.
The debut full-length from 22-year-old Vince Staples is an ambitious double album that sketches a vivid picture of Long Beach worthy of director John Singleton — bodies in the alley, ignored eviction notices and the "deadly game of tag" from his days as a teenage gangbanger. Staples flows effortlessly, suggesting a capable understudy of Kendrick Lamar or Earl Sweatshirt ("This shit ain't Gryffindor/We really killing, kicking doors," he raps on "Lift Me Up"). But the music itself, executive-produced by No I.D., leans mostly on harder, danker sounds built from rare psychedelic samples.
No-ID, famous for having mentored a young Kanye West, recently argued that releasing Summertime ‘06 as a double album would, thanks to a higher number of streams, earn more royalties for Vince Staples while delivering a higher-quality product to fans, implying that longer commercial releases are the future of hip-hop. This flies in the face of the paradigm established by promising young artists like OG Maco, Fetty Wap, and younger Vince Staples (of Shyne Goldchain and Hell Can Wait fame), which relies on the momentum of singles and short, free releases. After spending a lot of the past couple weeks trying and failing to love Summertime ‘06 but also eventually learning to like it, I couldn’t disagree more.
Few rappers sound less impressed by their own talent than Vince Staples. The 21-year-old Long Beach native raps with switchblade precision, in a contemptuous sneer that casts judgment on every word out of his mouth. He’s a born natural orator, yet he never plays up his best lyrics, or builds in pauses to allow listeners to drink up his cleverness the way showier rappers do.
In Long Beach, California, there’s a small park one block south of Artesia Boulevard and Indiana Avenue. It’s called Ramona Park, and according to exactly three Yelp reviews, there’s nothing particularly special about it. The consensus reads like you’d expect any public park-related review to read: Grassy, lots of trees, two baseball fields over here, two tennis courts over there, etc.
Vince Staples has never fit a mold. The streetwise rapper from Long Beach and 2015 XXL Freshman has a long lineage of rappers whose model he could follow as he begins to assert himself on the hip-hop landscape, dating back to Nate Dogg, Snoop and Dre and their funkified, bouncy party jams, or more recently with the Compton-bred MCs YG and Kendrick Lamar, anchors of opposite sides of the current Cali hip-hop spectrum. But on his Def Jam debut, the double album Summertime ’06, Staples largely rejects the sonic landscape of his West Coast predecessors, instead relying heavily on Def Jam’s in-house Yoda No I.D.
When we lament the lack of substance in music, we're longing for someone like Vince Staples. He's an entertaining rapper, vividly reflecting his immediate surroundings in a relatable way. Norf Norf's skittering Clams Casino beat lets Staples go in, showing off his technical skills in a day-in-the-life narrative about North Long Beach. The verses are deceptively joyous; the chorus features a low voice repeating, "I ain't never ran from nothin' but the police." Birds And Bees has more open production (via DJ Dahi), with a bass-driven groove and clear percussion bolstering the ambience in which Staples immerses his rhymes.
The same kid that once said, “Rap ain’t never did shit for a nigga with no options, you want some positivity go listen to some Common” is dropping his Def Jam debut album next week. It’s astounding how far Vince Staples has come. I first found him during the early days of Odd Future, when their music was a double dose of mischievous immaturity, full of presumptuous vulgarity and rebellious carelessness.