Released just three days short of Long Beach representative Vince Staples’ twenty second birthday, the debut album from up and coming MC Vince Staples (after four mixtapes released from 2011-2014 and an EP released last year entitled Hell Can Wait), Summertime ’06, showcases the young artist as a master of music which evokes anger, sorrow, heartache and sheer funk. From the cinematic, Wu Tang skit-like introduction, “Ramona Park Legend, Pt.1”, we are consumed by the sound and the decidedly old school Rap focus on substance in his grimy lyrics. It’s a good thing that his talent is so strong in these areas, and because of this it is easy to overlook one of the strongest suits a musician of any genre should have, because his inflection is often grating, of the somehow popular Lil’ Wayne variety and his actual flow and delivery (much unlike his verbal discourse on a track) seems lazy, too conforming to the widely accepted mainstream idea of how a rapper should sound and it sinks what could’ve been an eye-opening experience, a record highlighting a newcomer to be watched. Although all of the twenty tracks in Summertime ‘06’, and its appropriately epic seventy two minute runtime, entire track list blends seamlessly from one song to the next and build up a beautiful wall of often operatic, theatrical music which helps his lacking vocals and his dull charisma from becoming the blinding sore spot it would be for most artists who suffer from similar setbacks.
Summertime ’06 is a decidedly deceptive title. It plays like a Horror movie on wax (especially in the atmosphere and astonishing production used in the first five tracks with the appropriately downbeat and raw “Lift me Up,”, the hometown anthem “Norf, Norf”, “Birds and Bees”and its soulful guest spot vocals from Daley” and “Loca” all evoking the a sense of intensity and revulsion spoken about in these songs’ lyrics) and it isn’t long into the album where we realize that these are all point of view events that he witnessed in the season which the name of the album announces.
Vince Staples is at intriguing, but often appears to be a bit of a conformist to vocal approach, during Summertime ‘06’s opening and closing songs. As a matter of fact, the final songs: “Get Paid”, “Street Punks”, “Hang and Bang”, “C.N.B.” and “Like it is” are all examples of the exceedingly rare doses of genuine street music that isn’t varnished down to make millions or a single and doesn’t sting with the sickening egotism and overwrought sexism of so many self-proclaimed ‘greats’ like 50 Cent or Kanye West.
“Lemme Know”, track six, is head nodding but the focus is too much on vocals and it feels decidedly convention. This is preceded by “Dopeman”, which has a sultry hook and is reminiscent of a souped up Ice Tea track that lacks his meticulous knack for storytelling. “Jump off the Roof”, tune eight, works tremendously as the effective production, melody and his tone actually makes him sound like he is a man on the verge of contemplating the deed suggested by the moniker of the record.
“Senorita” is artificially haunting but reeks of a routine trap music sound and approach. The hook of this affront is manmade gun- shot effects, a generic substitute for being grimy if there ever was one that become cloying quickly, and it is followed up by a weak attempt at sentimentality with “Summertime” which is a waste of album space. Vince Staples’ voice is as careless as ever as he adopts a tone reminiscent of Mase trying to rhyme in a drunken stupor and, in turn, we want to do nothing more than fast forward to the next track.
Luckily, “Ramona Park Legend, Pt. 2” kicks in at this point and we almost instantly forget how horrendous “Summertime” is. He sings with eerily perfect precision to the same initially melancholy melody which got our attention with such ease when the LP began. For the next three tracks, “3230” (which commences at thrirty two minutes and thirty seconds into the album), “Surf” (featuring Kilo Kish) and “Might be Wrong” primarily lets Vince abandon his flow, to the luck of his listeners, and lets the disposition he musters so brilliantly through his choice of beats and the soundtrack for his cringeworthy inflection take the front stage. These songs call to mind the sheer creativity and invention, the ability to pull from Rap, R&B and at one occasion spoken word of the more recent works of the legendary Atlanta based group: Outkast. That is a high compliment and though he handles the more customary material that comes before and after it with susceptibilities that mostly work to his advantage and showcase artistry instead of noise one can’t help but hope that with his next album, which is given a clever preview in the concluding moments of Summertime ’06, that he drops his inhibitions to stay within what is accepted in terms of content and style for a proper new age Hip Hop song and wholly embraces this more imaginative side.
As a whole, Summertime ’06 is largely consistent, even if it feels like it has the heart of a concept album concerning the events that occurred during the title time and doesn’t really know it or want to bring it too evidently to the surface, and it is easy to see Vince Staples as being many tiers above today’s common MC. He displays enough ambition and handling of the more decidedly hardcore style of verses and beats with the emotional and tranquil movements of its more musically inclined, soulful R&B instances to be satisfying on many levels. At such a young age he has plenty of time to grow and expand and become the ‘legend’ he tries to summon into existence on both of the “Raymond Park” skits. One word of advice I would give him would be to make music for yourself, ignore any preconceptions of what you think a certain genre song should be and go with what you feel is right and put more fire and inflection into your voice and your delivery. This will make the sentimental conflagration already apparent in your melodies and production sync even more and create an unstoppable force which will assuredly grip your listeners’ ears and, in turn, never let them go as your career progresses and your artistry rises.