‘Summertime ’06’ By Vince Staples: Ambitious Summer Effort
Dishes clinking. Waves hitting the beach. Seagulls cawing in the lightly blustering breeze. These are the sounds of Long Beach, all punctuated with a ringing gunshot in the night. “Ramona Park Legend, Pt 1” opens the debut album from Vince Staples, hip hop’s perpetual spotlight-stealing side act.
Staples, 21, first made waves in hip hop with guest appearances on projects from the Odd Future Collective; building off his success with Earl Sweatshirt and Mike G he released 2013’s collaborative EP with Mac Miller titled Stolen Youth. Since then, the young gangbanger turned rapper has built on his success, culminating in June 30th’s release of his debut studio album Summertime ’06.
The album is an ambitious project, clocking in with a whopping 20 tracks spread out across almost 58 minutes of non stop gangster references and reminders that Staples has “rounds up in my chamber/I’m a gangster like my daddy.” The album itself fits right in with much of the West Coast gangster rapper mythos that surround artists like ScHoolboy Q, YG and the other gangster rappers of LA. “Loca” appropriates the staccato claps and warm full bass bounce of producers long ingrained in the soundscape of LA and Staples is clearly aware of his historical place in the musical world.
Much of the album feels like it is Staple carving out his own niche of the West Coast; on the second track, the most anthemic “Lift Me Up”, we hear Staples deliver lines that range from astute observations on race to stale gangsterisms about the streets. See: “Fight between my conscious and the skin that’s on my body/Man, I need to fight the power, but I need that new Ferrari” which is unfortunately preceded by Staples telling fans that “Ho, this shit ain’t Gryffindor, we really killin’, kickin’ doors”.
The dark gangster sound that has been so popular on the West Coast lately pervades throughout on Summertime ’06 and it’s obviously an album of the moment, borrowing elements from most major rap releases of the past decade. Executive production on the album comes from Chicago legend No I.D., but he’s assisted by Clams Casino, DJ Dahi and Christian Rich, all of whom are stars in their own right. Staples is lucky not only for the superstar production team that makes the album into a cohesive thought instead of a series of played out gangster riffs, but also for the guest features that include Jhene Aiko, Desi Mo, and Kilo Kish though none ever manage to upstage Staples. Even Joey Fatts and Aston Matthews, Staples’ longtime bandmates in the Cutthroat Boyz show up to deliver guest verses but neither can stand with Staples.
While Summertime ’06 is by no means a game changer, it’s still a solid debut and it’s worth noting that Staples’ is one of the few rappers who manages to carry a nearly completely coherent aesthetic throughout more than just one album. The ideas that Staples grapples with are familiar ones of gang violence and finding his own place as a man within conflicting sets of expectations; Summertime ’06 picks up exactly where Staples’ 2014 debut EP Hell Can Wait left listeners and even the lead video for Senorita picks up thematically where Staples left 2014 with ‘Blue Suede.’
You can stream the album before it releases on June 30 at NPR. If you like Staples’ solo work, check out his group work under the name Cutthroat Boyz with fellow Long Beach rappers Aston Matthews and Joey Fatts.