Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
“I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police,” he boasts on “Norf Norf,” to the accompaniment of sonar bleeps that I swear I’ve heard on a Spring Heel Jack record. This 21-year-old occasional Odd Future mate has a high, strident voice, a vestige of a harrowing adolescence he wants to get past and an energy he needs to keep expending. His first official album has Clams Casino production credits like “Norf Norf” and the title track alongside No I.D.’s pillaging of faint tango beats and guitars (“3230”) and of Joy Division’s raptor squawks (“Like It Is”). It’s too long, and here and there it verges on the familiar (“Get Paid”) and the familiar and callow (“Hang and Bang”); but the crossover hopefuls flirt with dub (“Lemme Know”) and the album’s insistent menace destabilizes the percussion and Staples’ bearings. Not his clarity. The cavalcade of horrors on “Birds and Bees” comes down to a couple of simple found object observations: “They found another dead body in the alleyway” and “a gangster like my granny.” Like Miguel, contact with women doesn’t exactly warm his heart. “This could be forever, baby,” he repeats on “Summertime,” and it’s clear who needs the assurance.
Miguel – Wildheart
The California mythos gets a side eye on Wildheart. Cokey scenes and palm trees are nice. But: “Heart caught in a rift, cold pacific waters, sweet California,” he sings on “leaves,” as poignantly as Joni Mitchell did on her own jaundiced ode to the state. With a sensibility steeped in the Mamas & Papas as much as Tupac, Miguel Pimentel wakes up after an evening of love looking forward to coffee in the morning. A happy moment in a rueful storm cloud of an album, part of the tradition of success-has-spoiled-me follow-ups to breakthroughs. “Too black for the Mexicans, too square to be a hood nigga,” he spits in “what’s normal anyway” over burbling guitar, of which there’s lots on Wildheart, much played by Miguel himself. “We’re gonna die soon,” he sings on opener “a beautiful exit.” Even “chase the sun,” the tune that should be the “Purple Rain”-style climax—why else hire Lenny Kravitz to jizz a loud rawk solo?—is a pained valentine, boasting the saddest ooh-oohs this side of Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, second side.
Miguel has never sung this well for so long, and Wildheart is a wonderful album, closer to one of Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah releases than “Adorn”: a dense amalgam of sexual politics and personal apocalypse, of R&B balladry and singer-songwriter strum, of typographical oddities. Ravishing the otherwise ponderous “flesh” with his upper register, multitracking himself into a Miguel Army on “DEAL,” agitating his tenor on “leaves,” he tests the range of his emotive powers; he’s restless, unwilling to sit in any space too long. Two years of vestigial guest appearances should’ve sapped his recording fervor; for a success-has-spoiled-me follow-up Wildheart seethes with possibilities, is alive to the ridiculous. Sex for Miguel is a ritual choreographed to the signals sent by his lovers. He wants you to have sex with him, he’s pretty sure you’ll like it, he’s damn sure he’ll love it, and sharing this with you is part of his natural courtesy.