The play on words that Calvin Valentine’s “Keep Summer Safe” takes advantage of would have had no additional meaning 15 years ago, and may not have any 15 years from now. It takes advantage at a precise moment in time in our culture when the runaway success of the [adult swim] program “Rick & Morty” has so permeated the collective consciousness that a throwaway joke in one episode about szechuan sauce resulted in ACTUAL riots when McDonald’s brought it back “for a limited time” and eager fans lined up en masse nationwide. Even though on the surface the phrase “keep summer safe” could simply be about having fun in the summer sun while avoiding police harassment, accidental overdose, or drowning while swimming, it’s more likely to engage the neurons in your brain to recall “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” from season two. Due to an imprecise verbal instruction from the titular Grandpa Rick, his personal spaceship decides to keep his granddaughter Summer “safe” with decidely lethal force, and keeps repeating the instruction out loud to her as though justifying her deadly actions. At one point the ship even mocks Summer’s “valley girl” attitude and behavior, with the implication being that the ship holds intellectual superiority over her in their current situation. (Viewer discretion is advised.)
It’s likely that given the show’s current popularity, an actual sample of “Rick & Morty” would have been prohibitively expensive, so you won’t find the ship saying “keep Summer safe” anywhere on “Keep Summer Safe.” That’s fine. Valentine cleverly took advantage of the association without having to actually pay for it, and a few more people may take notice of his solo album as a result. Meanwhile his bio completely ignores the reference and describes him this way: “(He) has produced for legends such as De La Soul, Nas, and Interscope signee Ryan Beatty in addition to working with the likes of Illa J, Bun B, Devin The Dude, Juicy J, Boogie, and more!” Now you know something about the album other than the cartoon reference – Calvin’s LP is entirely self-produced. It should also come as no surprise that the aforementioned Illa J (brother of the late J Dilla) makes a cameo appearance before the album is over on the track “Vhs.”
Calvin’s musical AND lyrical style are both the definition of “laid back,” which is also reflected by his official/unofficial nickname of “Bong Mayer.” Listening to songs like “Choppers In the Sky” makes it clear that while there may be drama overhead, it’s of no consequence to Mr. Valentine, who is just spending his days chilling and having fun in the warm California sun with his girl of choice.
“Got distracted by lust, out all summer on crush
They said ‘Calvin you gone’ – I said I ain’t doin much
But I got what I love; I love what what I got
She all that I know, she all that I want
We’ve been pickin Polo up like I mean all day
Yeah gotta cop that whole fit
She been on my’ gram she going trip
I be like ‘Damn that’s an old pic'”
If I’m being perfectly honest “Keep Summer Safe” is a “vibes” kind of album. It’s obvious that Calvin is a producer before a rapper. The tracks are polished to a “sittin on chrome” level of shine, but the bars don’t produce any memorable punchlines and play it safe with the topics. “It’s funny how life changes when you really need it/funny how seasons change, and I stay weeded” quips Valentine on “Neon.” It never gets more complicated than that but you’re honestly not going to be overly bothered listening to it by that lack of depth. Songs like “Lake House” are perfect music to drift off to, or play in the background at a party with an intermingling of genders, styles and beverages.
The only downside to using “Keep Summer Safe” as party music is that it’s only 33 minutes long, so you’re either going to need to put it on loop or make a longer playlist and sprinkle his album’s tracks in throughout. The album definitely lives up to the “Summer” part of its name regardless of how you format it. These tracks definitely wouldn’t be as fly to me in the month of January, but when you’re based in L.A. like Calvin is, you can “Keep Summer Safe” all year ’round thanks to a favorable climate.