As I’ve stated several times before, one of my biggest joys as a music fan is to be proven wrong. Once I have an opinion about an artist, it’s usually set in stone. Well how in hell did Vince Staples go from being someone I didn’t care about to one of my favorite rappers?
With his stellar debut album, Summertime 06.
For many of us, summers represent youth and freedom. Not being tied down by homework and being able to do whatever you wanted with your friends. Personally, when I think of Summer of 06, I think about playing basketball in the smoldering heat. Riding my bike to the store to buy Little Debbies and Tropicana juices because I was off sodas by then. I remember the summer being brief, because I was leaving the kids in my neighborhood to go to college (just gave my age away here).
Not every gets the opportunity for proper goodbyes. Everyone doesn’t get a happy ending. Everyone doesn’t look back on Summer 06 and think of it as the “good times”.
“Love will tear us apart. Nov 30th, 2005 was the beginning of the loss. The following summer multiplied it. Beaten paths, crowded with the hopeless. Same song every day, listening to the words of a dead man destroyed by his own mind and body. Why? Because at the end of the day we’re all dead anyway. At least where I come from. Love tore us all apart. Love for self, love for separation, love for the little we all had, love for each other, where we came from. Jabari, Chris, Shard, Tom, Richy, Tyson, Tony, Shelly, Phil, Marcel, Brandon, Steve, Jaron, Tay. Too many to name, too much to forget. Some lost to prison, some lost to Forest Lawn, some turned snitch. Some still here but it will never be the same. Bandanas, Stealing Levis and Nike Sb’s. Derringers and Sidekicks. Its crazy how little you notice and how greatly those things impact. Summer of 2006, the beginning of the end of everything I thought I knew. Youth was stolen from my city that Summer and Im 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. Summertime ’06, June 30th.”
I’ve made it no secret how much I love Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album. II’m pretty sure it wasn’t by design, but this album serves as the perfect compliment to it while being a stellar album on its own. t’s an examination of life in the hood from those who are affected by gang violence firsthand. I imagine this album to be the narrative of the rowdy kids from the hood riding around in the white van on Good Kid, MAAD City.
But that’s where the comparison stops. Vince isn’t trying to give you the answers. He’s not trying to save the world. He’s not trying to seek redemption. He’s simply recounting his experiences from a summer than changed the course of his life. I’m almost certain that Vince didn’t set out to become an activist or even spark a conversation, but Summertime 06 puts his environment under a microscope and shows how certain upbringings can affect people.
Now I must state that this album won’t be for everybody. It’s a double disk album for no good damn reason at all and it totally might not be your thing if you don’t like a dark tone. I usually hate the saying phrase “let it grow on you” but seriously, you have to slowly savor and digest this one. This album was released on June 30th, 2015. I kept a few songs I liked in rotation but other than that, I didn’t really see the hype. I put it down for a while then rediscovered it again during the late autumn, early winter months. I would go back to listen to “Hang N Bang” but found myself listening to the whole album. For some reason, the cold weather and dark nights made this album sound better. Aesthetically, it is a very bleak album. There’s little variety and honestly, little hope for optimism given to the listener.
It’s ultra violent. So violent that I like to call this album rap’s A Clockwork Orange.
For those who don’t know, A Clockwork Orange is Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece exploring the themes of morality and delinquency. In this movie, the “Droogs” were a group of young teenagers who committed acts of violence at random. This leads into a nature vs nurture conversation that frankly isn’t the point of this post, but it’s worth thinking about on your own time.
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard violent raps and thought “Ok…this guy really lived this”. Even then, that rapper typically isn’t only 22 years of age. Vince survived hell to make this album. It hardened him as a person. This type of honest hood commentary typically is unheard of because the people who have experienced these things either die young or end up behind bars.
In other cases they’re just liars and telling other people’s stories through their eyes. Or the guys who do rap honestly about these experiences area really trash. Fortunately, Vince is neither. Vince Staples is a very smart man and no, not “smart for a rapper” smart.
He showcases this throughout the albums with his witty raps:
We love our neighborhood, so all my brothers bang the hood
I never vote for presidents, the presidents that change the hood
Is dead and green,was standin’ on this mezzanine in Paris, France
Finna spaz cause most my homies never finna get this chance
All these white folks chanting when I asked ’em where my niggas at?
Goin’ crazy, got me goin’ crazy, I can’t get wit’ that
Wonder if they know, I know they won’t go where we kick it at
Ho, this shit ain’t Gryffindor, we really killin’, kickin’ doors
The lyrics would be nothing without the beats. I must admit, while I’m a fan of No ID’s work, especially with Common, I had my reservations about him producing a whole album for a young rapper from Long Beach, CA. My concerns were quickly put aside. While it took me a minute to dig this album fully, I always thought the production was interesting. These two managed to create a sound that still remained true to West Coast elements but still unlike anything out today.
Not since The Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury has there been a rap album with minimalist, but diverse production.
While Summertime 06 was a difficult period in Vince Staples life, it served as a turning point. In the end, we got brash, honest, social commentary from the least likely of narrators. He would probably be reluctant to accept the praise, but this album will serve as a socially significant album for years to come.
To prevent from getting too wordy here, I’ll just say check this album out if you haven’t already.