Vince Staples is a rapper from Long Beach, California who is oft mentioned alongside Earl Sweatshirt. But where Earl has become smaller and more introspective, Staples vision has only grown. So much so that his debut album, is actually a double album executive produced by No I.D. Staples throughout his career has talked about the violence and hopelessness he has experienced, as on the hook of “Fire” he says that he is “Probably finna go to hell anyway”. Or on Blue Suede” where he states “Young graves get the bouquets, Hope I outlive them red roses”. One of the most notable songs from Hell Can Wait, “Hands Up” is a violent and supremely angry anthem about police brutality. “Shoot him first without a warning, And they expect respect and nonviolence, I refuse the right to be silent”.
This is Vince’s mission though to “tell it like it is, and how it could be”, as stated on “Like It Is”. Vince is not to be bothered with the silly trappings that are ensnaring most other rappers right now. He doesn’t waste time talking about fashion, like A$AP Rocky, or women, like Drake, or ridiculousness, like Rae Sremmurd. As he says on Señorita “What means the world to you? Is it a fast life, money and clothes? Or what would you murder for?” His music is urgent, the majority of songs on summertime 06 are done in under or close to 3 minutes. Hooks are short, verses are concise and delivery is curt. The Production hits hard and forms a cohesive whole that easily results in the best production this year, besides To Pimp A Butterfly.
On several tracks Vince talks about the crisis within him because of the color of his skin. On “Summertime” he remembers that “My teachers told me we was slaves, My mama told me we was kings.”. Or on “Lift Me Up” he says “Hey, I'm just a nigga until I fill my pockets. And then I'm Mr. Nigga, they follow me while shopping”. Vince also prays for deliverance from the weight of the world, but on “Jump off the Roof” it seems God has not yet come. He prays to God because he needs him, but he is not sure if he is really alive; therefore he believes that jumping off the roof will jolt him to life.
Another recurring theme throughout the album is this idea of looking through the glass. It is referenced specifically in the music video for Señorita, where people in the hood walk down the street and are killed by guns. Then at the end the camera pulls back into a room where a middle class white family are watching the proceedings like television. It is a striking image not only because of its implications, but its truth. Those with privilege are able to just ignore the torment and turbulence that those who are less fortunate deal with everyday. And while it has lessened in its severity over all, pain is still being inflicted. As he says on “Lift Me Up’ Wonder if they know, I know they won't go where we kick it at. Fight between my conscious, and the skin that's on my body”. “Might Be Wrong” is a song that gives me chills every time I listen to it. In it Vince is calling a friend who is in ironwood state prison and they talk about the justice system and the police in America.
“Justice is supposed to be blind, but continue to cross color lines. Hands up, don't shoot. Shot. Stand your ground. Blacks don't own no ground to stand on so we stand on our words. Black and hooded is the official probable cause for cops to keep weapons on. I can't breathe through the chokeholds and gun smoke. These realities drift and appear to inform black boys and men of the dangers outside their doors. Slain in society by sworn protectors. Protected by their peers, grand juries full of friends. No charges brought against them. They kill and arrest us, transgress and oppress us.”
On the chorus we see the conflict within Vince “You tried to warn me, this war that would kill me, I sacrificed. Die to the world, I took the money. So for my life, can't sleep at night. You shoulda seen the crib though”. He is worried that money will stop him from helping people that deal with the things he has. He is worried that he will become passive and indifferent to the plight of his people, that they will continue to be subject to the unfair nature of “equality”.
“At the end of the day I feel like the problem is the people that control it don't really come from here, so they can't do nothing but look down on us. We look at them, we see somebody that could help but they look at us and all they see is a nigga.”(Staples, Like It Is)
by Addison Garry (@addisonagarry)