Take anything in America that has happened with any sort of regularity over the last 50 years and you can probably find a pretty well-steeled stereotype to go along with it.
It was with that in mind that Long Beach rapper Vince Staples approached a recent conversation with The Guardianin which he addresses the prevailing misconceptions about gang life and all that it entails.
Whereas most Americans have probably culled their understanding of gangsterism from movies, TV shows and rap lyrics, it is an actual reality for a portion of the nation's inner city population and one that isn't exactly all lowriders, Chucks and C-walking.
On his 2015 release Summertime '06, Staples offers up an endearingly real and honest look at life in one of the country's more gang-infested locales. His entrancing stories that pace the project aren't fictional either. In the interview, Staples doubled down on honesty and transparency.
I started gangbanging because I wanted to kill people.
A former member of the Crips himself, Staples outlines the perceived image of the notorious group that grew out of South-Central, Los Angeles decades ago. It's an interesting read that gets at the essence of who Staples is and the environment he grew up in.
In one instance he points to his upbringing when asked if he feels hip-hop is celebrating his work, which some have considered among the year's best. Instead of facing the question head-on, he offers up insight into the reality of coming of age in Long Beach and how different that experience is from the typical stereotypical "hip-hop" understanding. "I didn’t grow up with people breakdancing; I come from gang culture," said Staples. "I will live in Long Beach [again], but right now I’ve done too much stuff. People don’t forget when you’ve done things to hurt them.”
The interview is a glaringly real look at one of the most off-the-cuff artists you'll find in hip-hop today, and really lends itself to a deeper understanding of both west coast rap and the tropes that often come along with it.