Vince Staples is a 22 year old Long Beach rapper signed to legendary major label, Def Jam Recordings. He is a long time associate of Earl Sweatshirt and arguably one of the most underrated rappers honing his skills today.
Vince's debut studio album, Summertime ’06 is conceptual in narrative; one that explores Staple’s perspective growing up in California in a sublime way. A general dark ambiance spreads across the record. It is in fact relentlessly dark.
In the run up to the album release, Staple’s dropped reference to the project’s artwork, a tweaking of Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures”. He alludes to the record telling a story “…that might not make sense because none of it does, we’re stuck. Love tore us all apart.” This sets the tone for the journey he wants to take you on. A superbly simply, reductive production spanning the double disc comes courtesy of No I.D, DJ Dahi and Clams Casino.
There are sparse guest appearances on the record which is seemingly a rarity amongst Staple’s peers, giving him a dominative presence, as he should have. The overall sound is a juxtaposition of dream like musings and doses of cold, hard life. The drums generally clip off, added vocals are at times gospel-esque, synths are pulsing, at times off beat, the bass drones and Staples nonchalantly marries the sound with supreme delivery of nostalgic, poignant lyricism.
The album is sequenced nicely into two parts, although the two aren’t perhaps as distinct in difference as say Danny Brown’s “Old”. A single echoing gunshot rings out after the track “Summertime” and we are thrown back into the same picture. Staples serves heavy material all the while, touching on religion, racism, gang culture, gentrification, victimisation, drug abuse and self loathing to name but a few themes. At just under the hour mark, “Summertime ’06" is very digestible although not something every listener might want to throw on repeat. Standout cuts on the album, “Norf Norf”, “Señorita”, “Might Be Wrong” and “Like It Is”.
The last track on the album reveals that Vince has been detailing his life through the silver screen as '06 bluntly cuts to white noise just under a minute in. The term white noise is a playful coincidence as Vince portrays in the video for “Señorita”, his life and many others being served as entertainment to a middle class white family. The metaphor perhaps deeper than race or class, more so a social commentary on our present, living life behind screens, watching as societal constructs and lives on the periphery are broken down. The cliffhanger is a confident and potent way to pause the story for now. “Summertime ’06” is available to stream and download now and I strongly recommend doing so.
On a final note, the latest feature Vince appears on is a record called Ghost by With You. A collective of DJs/producers founded by Major Lazer co-founder, Switch. The twitchy, thumping house production pulls jarring, blaring synths together with head bobbing drums pleasantly complimenting the cool, confident, at times lazy delivery of Staples. The overall effect is one that could transport you to a drug fuelled warehouse party, if that’s your vibe. Or you could just be sitting scratching yourself, procrastinating at your laptop doing some stellar sit-down dancing. The record serves as a testament to the diversity of Staple’s communication, one that is terse and vigourous, regardless of production style. It will be interesting to see this young artist grows and hopefully the integrity and rawness he has channelled in his debut project will continue. Thanks for reading.