Thanks to my music friends, I was tipped off to Vince Staples just before this album dropped. One of them stated that it was better than To Pimp A Butterfly, the funky hip-hop masterpiece from Kendrick Lamar that’s quickly become one of my favorite albums in years.
That’s a ballsy statement. I clicked play.
The video is one of the most subtly powerful images I’ve witnessed all year. It’s a visual treatise on the way that myriad subcultures and “others” are only seen by suburban white America through screens, the tangible life and death struggle rendered impotent or entertainment by the separation of glass. An indelible final shot delivers the death blow; I won’t spoil the surprise. You’ll know if you watch it.
While I think a direct comparison of the two albums is pointless, Summertime ’06 is in fact a powerful, anxiously gripping listen. It’s so raw and futuristic that I’m still piecing together how I feel about it. The production floats just before the vanguard, never letting my ears catch up to everything that’s happening. It’s cutting edge but never gets in the way of his powerful vocals, conveying a vast combination of world-weariness and humor that feels unbelievable coming from someone so young.
Staples just turned 22 on July 2nd, but you’d never guess it from listening. The complex interplay of powerfully layered storytelling and nuanced, deeply inventive production feels like the work of a veteran. Then again, someone long entrenched in the industry wouldn’t likely twist such intricately fresh tunes, unmoored from tradition and tropes. Aside from a constant sense of surprise, the songs’ sheer musicality is breathtaking. Front end to end, the album swings hard.