Summertime ’06 (2015)
Rap / Hip-Hop
ARTium Recordings / Def Jam Recordings
Tough is a good word to describe the early life of West Coast rapper Vince Staples. During his childhood, his father was constantly in and out of prison and his mother was working all the time. Because of this, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents in Compton. When Staples was twelve, his grandfather died and shortly after, his friend Jabari Benton was murdered. It was this culmination of events that caused him to get involved in the gang activity that littered Long Beach at the time. This is the fuel for the fire that Vince Staples brings on his debut album Summertime ’06.
Vince Staples is a name in hip-hop that should garner more attention. Most of his younger years saw him participating in the gangbang culture of Long Beach. He slowly got away from that life and turned to music to get himself off the streets. Up to this point, he has only put out EP’s and mixtapes, including the likes of Hell Can Wait and the Shyne Coldchain mixtape series. Summertime ’06 might just be the album to finally propel him into the mainstream world of hip hop.
As far as rap albums go, this is probably one of the rawest pieces of work I have listened to in a while. Everything that Staples raps about is real and comes from something that affected him in his gang days, more specifically the summer of 2006. Explaining the title of the album, Staples said, “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. This might not make sense, but that’s because none of it does, we’re stuck. Love tore us all apart.
We get some cold dark undertones right from the get-go with “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 1,” a chilling instrumental interlaced with contrasting sounds of summer and the beach. The beat leads right into “Lift Me Up,” which almost serves as an intro into the early life of Vince Staples and the sort of stuff he had to deal with. Next up on the track list is the Clams Casino produced “Norf Norf” which is a prideful boast about the North Side of Long Beach, California where Vince Staples grew up.
Later down the line Staples raps about the vices that consumed and controlled him during his gangbanging days like sex and selling drugs. “Birds & Bees” is a mix up of the classic children’s phrase with a twist and “Loca” is a song about the women that drive him crazy. “Lemme Know,” featuring the talented Jhene Aiko, is another great sounding song that acts as the follow up to “Loca.” The album’s primary producer is hip-hop legend No I.D., and he provides a fantastic beat for “Dopeman,” a song about Staple’s other vice; drugs.
The album’s first disc (out of two) ends with “Summertime,” an extremely stripped down track with a ton of emotion. Staples doesn’t hold anything back on this one and you can almost feel the pain in his voice. On it, he questions whether or not his love will want to stay with him past the summer. It was a glistening highlight on the album.
The second part of the album focuses on life after the Summer of 2006, with a bigger focus on the gang culture in Long Beach. “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 2” features Earl Sweatshirt on an eeire sounding beat, while “Might Be Wrong,” featuring Haneef Talib, explores the topic of gang culture and the injustices that surround the events of today. It’s a track that runs chills down your spine.
The third and second to last songs on the album, “C.N.B.” and “Like It Is,” feature the deep flow of Staples with some great verses that demonstrate the raw talent that the rapper has. They also serve as the conclusion to the story of Vince Staples and his gangbanging childhood. “’06” gives us a cliffhanger that looks into the future and what is to come from the rapper.
It’s hard to tell whether all the things that Vince Staples raps about is true, but given the amount of emotion that he puts into almost every single track, it’s hard to deny where he’s coming from. Summertime ’06 is a fantastic album that gives us some of the realest material the year has seen. It might get off to a slow start in the beginning, but I’m confident that it’s going to turn Vince Staples into a household name. The album will also make a case for top album of the year.