Rumors swirl about Vince Staples. He doesn't like white people. He graduated with honors from a private school in Orange County. He and Tyler, the Creator, hate each other. That last one is largely because the Odd Future frontman has loudly dissed the 18-year-old rapper. "I like really, really, dislike Vince," he's said, seemingly a propos of nothing.
About the only thing anyone knows for sure about Staples is that he was on Earl Sweatshirt's much-talked about 2010 debut, Earl. The album -- which preceded Earl's much-discussed exile -- made many year-end lists, and Staples' verse on the song "epaR" introduced him as a promising new talent.
Right now Staples is lounging on the bed of his Koreatown apartment, separating fact from fiction. He stretches out his long legs, as his dewy girlfriend rests her head against his shoulder. She's white, so we can toss that rumor aside, and he'll also have you know that he grew up and went to high school all over L.A. county, not in the OC. As for Tyler, he has no idea why the guy disses him. "I don't think I've imposed on anybody," he says. "He's just quirky."
Staples has plenty of advocates, however. "Watch out for this kid," says Speak, another highly-touted young rapper who is allied with Kreayshawn. "He's Earl's only equal." Staples' first mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, was released last month, and it speaks to his talent.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
He's not as violently graphic as Odd Future; instead, there's yearning, and almost an element of sweetness on otherwise-disturbing fantasy tracks like "Taxi," where soured love ends in murder. Lines like "Never fuck with niggas who can point out where ya mama live," seem to stem from actual experience; his dad was a gangbanger, he says ("fuck that nigga"), though he declines to discuss his own brushes with the law.
His satellite relationship with Odd Future began when he was introduced to collective member Syd the Kyd by a high school friend. When he was kicked out of his house by his mother, Syd let him sleep in her studio. He became chummy with the crew -- everyone except Tyler, he says -- and they asked him to contribute a verse to Earl's album. The result was "epaR" ("Rape" spelled backwards).
"A hitchhiker hippie whore/ Met her at the liquor store," he raps. "She frequented to help support the habit she picked up in the fourth/ Grade A piece of ass." His lurid rhyme caught people's attention, and many assumed he was part of the group.
But Tyler wants everyone to know he's not, and even went on a lengthy internet tirade explaining as much in June. ("OF is OF, not a click with affiliates and all this bullshit," he said, in part [sic].) Yet even when Tyler's gone off on the MC, he can't deny Staples' skill: "He's cool at rapping, tho."