Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Vince Staples "Summertime '06" (2015)

One of the best verses on Schoolboy Q's underwhelming "Blank Face LP" was the young Vince Staples who drops in mid verse, taking the mic from Q and sparkling with a slick flow of steady rhymes that build ceaselessly on top of one another without a moment for respite. The name caught my ear but it wasn't until a small viral craze took hold around Vince that I got caught in the hype. Unsurprisingly a video of a woman crying over the lyrical content "Hoes need abortions" only served as a platform of promotion for the rapper who I immediately dug, remembering him from the Schoolboy record. "Summertime '06" is Vince's debut record and a reference to the time he started rapping at the age of thirteen nine years earlier. Its technically a double record but with two sides at thirty minutes it plays side to side like a single experience.

As it often goes in Hip Hop music their are two sides in contention. Lets start with the beats, these are mostly dense atmospheric bangers, numbers that pair deep moody, at times, ambiguous layers of samples with crunching drums. With a lack of distinct focal melody much of the magic comes from how they character and fill the space between the drums and bass. The baselines on tracks like "Dopeman" are dominating, sounding menacingly sublime on a sub-woofer that can give volume to such low frequencies. Above them the drums rattle and shuffle away with a variety of pallets that often draw to a percussive, sometimes Latino, edge over traditional kick snare grooves. Together they lean towards the dark-side and flirt with low-fidelity and minimalism on tracks like "Surf". Its a refreshing set of instrumentals that set the stage for Vince to set himself aside from the crowd.

Staple's flow is a chemistry of contrasts, his voice monotone and off key, it gives an odd rigidity to an otherwise liquid flow that oozes from word to word in effortless waves of lines that feel like they have no start or end. Vince just keeps going and going with rarely a pause to catch his breath. Lyrically he's all about story and substance, there's barely a braggadocios or flamboyant moment of ego, he just knuckles down and sticks to the point, painting the picture of his life in a wild world. "Summertime" is a pleasant break to something different where Vince puts on a humble singing voice for a slower, dreamy song.

Watching interviews with him, its clear hes a bright and well articulated young man. A fair amount of that comes through in the music between some of the darker tales. There's no cheap tricks at work, in the beats or the rhymes. It strikes me as a real work of substance and vision with no filler that ill continue to enjoy for much time to come. A must hear for Hip Hop fans who want something progressive and fresh.

Favorite Tracks: Norf Norf, Loca, Dopeman, Jump Off The Roof, Summertime, 3230, Surf, Might Be Wrong
Rating: 7/10