I discovered Vince Staples earlier this year and feel like I’ve been living under a rock. This guy is no joke. He is one of the hottest rappers in the game, collaborating with everyone from Earl Sweatshirt to Mac Miller to Future. The 22-year-old released a 20-song debut album in June of 2015 and it truly highlights why he’s so talented. In just under an hour, Staples takes you into the journey we call his life and it is not pretty.
There’s a strong sense of urgency in the conversational lyrics that Staples puts forth. He communicates messages like he’s speaking directly to you – a powerful skill that not many rappers have. Summertime 06’ does it all: incredible beats, raps, and realism.
Summertime 06’ tells fact-based stories about everything from sex, crime, and his life as a black man. He raps “On 65 I tell the truth, no lies / the sheets and crosses turned to suits and ties / in black America, can you survive?” in “C.N.B.” a powerful track about racism in America. Most of the album is about his past so it’s refreshing to see him talk about issues that aren’t just in his hometown but are worldwide.
My favorite tracks are about him literally running from the police in his home Long Beach. In “Norf Norf”, the chorus literally repeats “I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police…From the city where the skinny carry strong heat / Northside, Long Beach.” I can’t even explain why this song is as good as it is – something about the way he conveys the truth of growing up on the streets of California is reminiscent of lyrics from Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre. The suspense you feel from hearing the way he raps about his everyday life is albeit for a better word, intense. He does it all so quickly and easily; it feels like rapping is another language that he mastered when he was ten. Frankly, it’s hard to believe he’s been through so much at only 22.
The first single, “Senorita” was the perfect way to introduce Summertime 06’ to the world. The track features Atlanta rapper Future and again, is about Staples’ growing up in a bad neighborhood. He raps “We crabs in a bucket / he called me a crab / so I shot at him in front of the Douglas / I cannot be fucked with, we thuggin’ in public.” Again, his honesty portrays the struggle of black men pinned against each other and how he had to fend for himself.
This album is also packed with amazing guest verses. “Lemme Know” featuring label mate Jhene Aiko and DJ Dahl, is another key song on this debut. The collaboration provides perspectives from both the man and woman, with Staples letting her know she’s driving him crazy while confident Aiko sings “You gon’ be runnin’ round tripping ‘til you get your hands on more.” Their voices blend together so naturally that nothing sounds overproduced.
A true mark of an incredible artist is one that can paint a vivid picture for you that makes you feel something, whatever it may be. I see a painting and I understand what the artist was trying to say. A movie makes me feel so much that I don’t ever remember those were actors on screen. A musician that conveys depth, emotion, and truth that allows me to see into his soul. And that is what we have here…Vince Staples, a true artist at heart.