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Vince Staples, 'ARE YOU WITH THAT?'

Three days before the release of his long-anticipated fourth official album, Vince Staples has dropped "ARE YOU WITH THAT?," an intimate ode to Northtown — a somber summer anthem for Staples' hometown of North Long Beach and other working-class communities marred by the presumption of Black criminality and subsequent surveillance. The track, co-produced by Kenny Beats and Reske, is a glaring departure from Staples' straight-faced quotables, with the California rapper opting instead to sing over a sparse beat and melodic synths. "ARE YOU WITH THAT?" reads as a mournful chapter of a memoir in progress; Staples is distanced from — yet fully consumed by — his past, a life saturated with fear and engineered by powers outside his control, as evidenced in the refrain: "Hope you watchin' your back."

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LaTesha Harris is NPR Music's editorial assistant. A relentless jack-of-all-trades, she takes turns writing, editing and producing music coverage. Invested in the culture behind pop, hip-hop and R&B, her work highlights the intersection between identity and history. Once in a blue moon, Harris moonlights as a talking head with no filter.