On June 30, the day rapper Vince Staples put out his Summertime ’06, Wired magazine wrote that “It sounds dystopian, but not futuristic—because we’re living in a dystopia right now.”
As 2015 comes to a close and a flood of images from Chicago and Minneapolis replace those from Ferguson and Baltimore, where there should be ever increasing urgency there is instead an eerie constancy to the situation. That could be why Sasha Frere-Jones described Summertime ’06 in the LA Times as one of the year’s most important rap albums. Drawing inevitable comparisons to fellow SoCal son Kendrick Lamar, Long Beach’s Staples may be conscious but he is not positivist. Where Lamar seems to continually find an awakening, Staples only sees another nightmare. His cadence and delivery on tracks like “Lift me up” might read like a sendup to Lamar, but there is no sonic or spiritual release on Summertime ’06, there’s no “King Kunta” and there’s no assurance that “we gonna be alright.”
“Shit don’t mean nothing when there’s people out here dying and starving with no hope,” he told The Fader. “That’s what matters … I might be okay now, but I’m not really okay, because nobody else is okay.”
On Dec. 12 (7 p.m. at the IMU), SCOPE will present Vince Staples, a fully formed artist in his moment. Regardless of where his career goes, this year of reflection and reckoning could not be sent out with a stronger show. It’s an opportunity Iowa City is very lucky to have and one that should not be missed.