Vince Staples couldn’t give a fuck about what other people think. Whether it’s through his music, social media or everyday life, his authenticity proves to be his biggest asset. There’s no trend, no sound, no artist that he’s worried about — except his own. His ability to manifest his talents into meaningful hip-hop that feeds the soul is just one reason for his current position as one of the most respected contemporary MCs.
Consistency, hard work and a real story — the Long Beach rapper never fails to deliver. He tends to mind his business, but he will use his platform to voice his opinions on the political and social injustices that plague our times. One look at the recent Black Panther soundtrack, a compilation album produced by Kendrick Lamar and TDE, and you’ll see Vince’s name next to track No. 5, “Opps.”
And yet he sees the hypocrisy of Black History Month.
“Black History Month is for white people,” he says with a laugh. “Just to be honest, Black History Month is so that white people feel like they’re including black people.”
For most rappers who grew up on the streets, music is more than a career. The way Staples tells it, this was a chance to give hope to the community that there’s a life beyond hustling and gangbanging. For Staples, there was no Plan B. This was it. As the rising star continues to shake up the game, his end goal never falters.
“Just to be able to take care of myself and my family — do the things that I want with my life, which is a luxury that most people don’t get,” he says.
And at 24 years young, Staples has received his first RIAA certification, with “Norf Norf” achieving gold status three years later after its release. While most would be overjoyed at the news of their standout single pushing more than 500,000 units, Staples remains unenthused.
“I don’t really care that much,” he states. “You have to pay for those plaques, so when I knew that, it was kind of funny to me. I don’t have it. I’m on tour right now, so I think they’re gonna mail it to my residence. But yeah, you have to pay for those things. They’re not free. So it’s not even like a gift or anything. It’s fucked up that they make you do that … but I guess it’s cool.”
Having been on tour the past three and a half years, Staples resorts to celebrating the achievement on his social media page. With “Norf Norf” bringing fans back to Summertime '06, his debut album via Def Jam, listeners are reminded that Staples is not here to fit in and will never conform to any conventional perception of what hip-hop should be.
“I’ve honestly never thought about that in my life,” he says. “That’s a funny question because I don’t think anyone who makes music is concerned with those things. I think they’re more concerned with the things that they create and whatever they gain from it. But I don’t have a problem with the current state of hip-hop. If I don’t like it, I really don’t listen to it. It’s not really my quarrel what anyone else is doing. If that’s what they want to make and that’s what makes them happy and that’s their creative vision, then I have no say-so in that. But as far as my current state of myself, I’m very, very happy with that.”
With an undeniably enviable and influential catalog, Staples’ name remains at the forefront of West Coast hip-hop. Being around for the rise (and fall) of Odd Future, Staples was always surrounded by the talents of his peers, such as Earl Sweatshirt and Syd Tha Kid. An artist who is dedicated to his craft, Staples knows the game and knows his worth. While YG and Nipsey Hussle may continue to take much of the on-air limelight, Staples reminds us of the artists who have been around since day one.
“I don’t wake up like, ‘Aw man, West Coast hip-hop is doing great,’” he says. “West Coast hip-hop has been in a decent space since Tyler, the Creator came out, and things of that nature… and when it was Hopsin, and G-Eazy, and G-Licious. Usually, when people refer to West Coast hip-hop, they’re referring to the same shit. Gangster rap, gang coastal music. Tyler, the Creator came out 10 years ago and is nominated for a Grammy and sold 100,000 records. He changed the way that rappers brand themselves, changed the way that rappers sell their merch and all these different things. Kind of helped change the touring format. Every single rapper has a clique and a record label and all these other things. It’s been in a decent place for a minute, is my opinion.”
Speaking of Tyler, the Creator, those who were lucky enough to catch the two on their co-headlining tour were in for a treat — although Staples makes it look as effortless as possible.
“I don’t really do much,” he says. “I do the show and then I go to the hotel or go on the bus. I think just how easy it’s been. It’s been an easy transition. I like the setup we have right now. The fact that the shows are going well, those are my favorite things about it. If you would ask them, they would say that they don’t ever see me because I just do my job and go home.”
At both sold-out shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Def Jam presented Staples with his first plaque, which proved to be only a snippet of the festivities. The actual show yielded a set highlighting the contrast between light and darkness, leading to an unforgettable evening of growth, success and celebration.
“[Tyler is] bright and happy and I’m not,” Staples says. “So as far as the tone of the music and things of that nature, I think it’s just kind of reflecting on each other — each other’s personalities, I guess. Because his music and his self are reflected in his set, and my music and myself are reflected in mine.”
When “Yonkers” was released in 2011, it seemed like “dark” was the go-to adjective to describe Tyler’s music. Fast-forward to 2017 and Flower Boy sees a happy, go-lucky Tyler. Similarly, Staples’ Big Fish Theory takes a left turn from his previous projects and critically analyzes his life as he steps into rap stardom. It seems the roles have reversed.
Nonetheless, Staples continues to hold nothing back, as he strives to preserve an element of surprise for his fans, on top of the cinematic experience they already expect. Parting ways with Tyler, Staples now embarks on his own solo tour, with the City of Angels being one of the first stops.
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“Just a different show,” he says. “We try to bring something interesting and new every time we deliver something onstage. It’s just a completely different setup. You won’t see the same stage setup. It won’t be the same set list or order. Just trying to repurpose all the work that we’ve done so just a new take on the things that they already know.”
While most artists juggle tour life with studio time, Staples’ response to new music is brutally honest.
“I’d like to take a break,” he confesses. “I know that’s not possible, but I’d like to take a break. It’s not gonna happen, but when I know, you’ll know.”
As this story went to press, Staples released details of his new GoFundMe campaign, titled #GTFOMD. Staples says that, for $2 million, he will, "shut the fuck up forever and you will never hear from me again — no songs, no interviews no anything. If not, then you can choose to let me do what the fuck I want to do, when I want to do it." Staples apparently means business.
Vince Staples performs at 9 p.m. on Monday, March 12, at the Novo. Visit his Instagram here.