Vince Staples, it can be argued, is top five today in terms of pure lyricism. Since his guest spot on Earl Sweatshirt's "epaR" in 2010, Vince has been burning damn near every song he's been featured on. He followed that string of features with solo mixtapes filled with dark humor and unrelenting honesty, further proving his prowess behind the mic. All of that has led him to this point. On Tuesday, June 30, his debut album, Summertime '06, is set to release, and it's a double-disc. A good chunk of the 20-track album is produced by the legendary No I.D. This combo worked with the Hell Can Wait EP, and it works on Summertime. Vince Staples's album is a force of nature, and like nature, the project brings with it the positive and the negative: songs that lift you up and tracks that drop you in the street just as easily.
Being signed to a major label like Def Jam almost forces an artist to reach for radio spins. Vince does that, and while some are decent efforts, they fail to stick. The first half of the album suffers from this. The tracks like "Loca" and "Lemme Know" are ambitious with their breakdowns and hooks, but they don't seem to have enough legs to be radio hits. However, you have to respect Vince for be willing to take chances with these radio-friendly records. Definitely not what I foresaw in his future after hearing him slaughter Joey Fatts' "Lindo" and Earl's "Hive." "Jump Off the Roof" featuring Snoh Aalegra and "Señorita" also have a "radio" feel, but unlike the two tracks I mentioned, these work. The hooks are catchy, the beats bang, the rhymes grab you, all ingredients that'll help him get some terrestrial spins. Songs like "Lift Me Up" and "Norf Norf" are Vince at his best, though. The hook on the former is special, and the beat vibrates your eardrums until the song enters your soul:
"See, this weight is on my shoulders, pray Jehovah lift me up/And my pain is never over, pills and potions fix me up/I just want to live it up, can a motherfucker breathe?/ Life ain't always what it seems, so please just lift me up"
The second disc is what a day one Vince fan loves about him. Clams Casino blacked out when he made the beat to "Surf" featuring Kilo Kish. The frantic rhythm somehow works with Kilo's subtle hook and Vince's signature monotone flow. It's a hit, I promise you. And he drops gems like only he knows how:
"How you rich but your bitch in an old Ford?/How you black sellin' crack for the white man?/How you real, wouldn't kill for your right hand?/On the stand sworn in with ya right hand"
He's only 21. The rappers at the top shake in their boots whenever he opens his mouth. Some other highlights are "Get Paid" in which Desi Mo hits her feature opportunity out of the park, and "Hang N' Bang" in which Staples and his fellow Cutthroat Boy A$ton Matthews (who has the best rap voice in the game) do what they do best: rap about that Cali gang-banging life. The project closes out with "C.N.B." and "Like It Is." Both start off like Kanye tracks with moaning Auto-Tune before eventually settling in. Vince goes the fuck off on "C.N.B." spitting:
"On 65 I tell the truth, no lies/The sheets and crosses turned to suits and ties/In black America, can you survive?/They made a nuisance once the noose is tied/We gentrified, we victimized, we fighting for survival/No hopes and dreams, just leave us be, we leanin' on the bible/They preyin' on us, prayin' for a better day tomorrow/Hide the fear behind this here bravado"
*wipes brow* Vince is special. Summertime '06 is an ambitious solo debut. Although, it's a bit too long, and suffers from some peaks and valleys, it's a very solid project overall. It grows on me with each listen. The beats have soul to them, and his bars give me chills at times. The game has been missing a conscious gangsta rapper. Our prayers have been answered. Once he learns to make crossover hits, it's going to be quiet for a lot of cats out here.
Angel Diaz is staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.