Welcome to Hit Or Miss, our new weekly column where we cover as many new rap tapes, albums, EPs, and projects from the week as we can. Some are good, others, not so much, but remember – honesty is the best policy.
Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
If gangsta rap as we know it has been in a constant state of flux for the last decade, then Vince Staples is at the nexus point of the genre’s second coming. Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 and Hell Can Wait EP from last year paint dark portraits of corners rife with gang reps, racial tension, hustle, and death, and his debut LP (a double album, no less) Summertime ‘06 is no exception. The morose bangers, with production from Clams Casino, DJ Dahi, Christian Rich, and executive producer No I.D., give Vince a chance to stretch his legs and drop some of his best stories yet.
Even considering the fact that a double album is hella ambitious, even if it’s not the first major label album(!) an artist is dropping, it’s worth noting that the second disc of ‘06 doesn’t have as much musical variety as the first one does. It all sounds good, but aside from a few blasts to the sinuses in “Might Be Wrong” and “Get Paid”, it blurs together a little bit and Staples’ plain-spoken and energized bars are lost in the shuffle. Still, there’s more than enough heat on here to justify its length, and Staples is sure to have hips shaking and minds racing and suburban moms banging down iTunes’s doors come Monday morning. – Dylan Green
Best Tracks: “Norf Norf,” “Jump Off The Roof,” “Señorita”
Boogie – The Reach
On the third track of Compton rapper Boogie’s new tape The Reach, he suddenly tells us, “I need some help with my feelings.” It’s not something we’re used to hearing from rappers, especially ones who hail from the same city that spawned N.W.A. Instead, he pieces details together to illustrate what’s wrong with his surroundings; on “Make Me Over,” the centerpiece of the project, he uses wordplay to squeeze some sense out of things like snitching, lynching, and crayons – “That’s my five year old kid, he still got crayons in his cupboard / Now how I’m ‘posed to tell him I got shot over a color, that don’t make sense.”
He’s best known for “Oh My,” produced by Jahlil Beats, but that song is an outlier amongst a body of cohesive songs mostly produced by Boogie’s nephew Keyel Walker. Two of the beats are helmed by TDE wiz Willie B, and the majority of the project is melancholy, mellow meditation on God, gangbanging, and good ol’ pussy. Comparisons to Kendrick will be inevitable, but as long as this 25-year-old father can continue spinning compelling tales out of his own experiences, we’ll keep listening – “I was on a field trip, my dad was on a guilt trip / They wonder why I never feel shit, it’s crazy how that deadbeat can still produce this real shit.” – Max Weinstein
Best Songs: “Make Me Over,” “God’s Work Interlude,” “First Evergreen”
Don Trip – Godspeed
Many times during the slightly bloated 70 minutes of Don Trip’s new album Godspeed he talks about his mother, and more specifically the physical results of their strained relationship – her tears, her utterances of being “fine,” her inability to get her nails done because Don stole the money from her. It feels like this is Don’s attempt at reconciliation with his mom. And I thought Starlito’s Black Sheep Don’t Grin was heavy.
Trip is best known for his emotional work, and though his signature punchlines are still littered throughout the LP, most of the album is a slugfest of eviction notices, murdered friends, dysfunctional relationships with women, and empty pantries. By the end of the album, he can’t help but admit he’s on a “Losing Streak.” That he has the courage to admit it makes Godspeed a moving, essential listen. – MW
Best Songs: “Eviction Notice,” “Day After Tomorrow,” “Leaning”
King Los – God, Money, Power
Baltimore rapper King Los is another lyrical sibling to Kendrick, as his dense rhymes give you a live-action picture of life in his city. He was once signed to Bad Boy, and though he got dropped in 2008, the quality of his music has earned him a steadfast fanbase that’s buoyed him towards his first major label release – God, Money, War.
As expected from a title like that, the religious overtones on here are hard to miss. Right smack dab in the middle of the album, R. Kelly joins him for “Glory to the Lord,” and the bluntness of many songs on the album might be a little too on-the-nose to be deemed clever. Songs like “Blame It On The Money” and “Balance Is Good” sound more like talking points than artistic springboards, but Los’ dexterity on the mic still allows for listening sans cringing. The production is excellent, even when it gets experimental on songs like “Ghetto Boy.” Looking at his career trajectory, God, Money, War is a highlight in this kid’s tough career so far (he started writing poetry after his father was murdered). Now he needs to find a way to send a message without waving a picket sign. – MW
Best Songs: “War,” “Black Blood,” “Blame It On The Money”