When most people reminisce on the summers of their youth, they go back to a simpler time filled with innocence and happiness. For Long Beach native Vince Staples, that is not what comes to mind. Growing up in one of the most violent areas in America with high gang activity, Staples had to learn at an early age how to last on the streets and live in the environment around him. On his debut double album Summertime ’06, Vince paints a picture of what a lifestyle of hardships and loss can do to a young kid just trying to survive.
The prevalent theme on this project is the life of a gangster and the consequences that come along with that. When Vince raps about this, he does so in many different manners. At times, it seems as if he is glamorizing gang life like on tracks such as “Get Paid” where he raps about getting money and women. There are also points, like on “Senorita”, where he seems completely apathetic to what he is doing. His monotonous delivery gives a cold-hearted tone to the actions that he is describing. However, Vince also shows remorse and regret about the deeds he has done on “Like It Is”, talking about how he needs to get to heaven even though he knows he has committed many sins. These contradictions show that life for him is not black-and-white, but rather gray and complex. The life he lives is out of necessity, not choice.
Musically, this is one of the more impressive albums released this year. The production, done mainly by No I.D. along with the help of Clams Casino and DJ Dahi, is gritty and hard-hitting. This allows Vince to keep his flows tight and his delivery harsh while he raps about topics such as heartbreak, death, and the world around him. His lyricism is powerful and sticks with the listener even after multiple listens. While his hooks can be lacking on some songs and there were periods he could have gone deeper into his troubled past, there aren’t many weak spots about this album.
Vince Staples took an ambitious risk by releasing a double album about the tough realities of life in Long Beach as his major label debut, but the results were spectacular. Summertime ’06 is concise, yet dense and gives the listener a glimpse into the mind and history of Vince Staples.
Standout tracks: Life Me Up, Norf Norf, Jump Off the Roof
Forgettable tracks: Lemme Know, Dopeman