I remember when Vince Staples was just beginning to enter the blogosphere. It wasn’t that long ago when he was considered the kid from Earl’s album that poked fun at Fantasia’s illiteracy.
His verse on “epaR,” along with Earl’s impromptu disappearance, created a larger demand for more of Vince despite him being fairly unknown. When he finally released his first mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol 1, it wasn’t what you expected from someone affiliated with Odd Future. The offensive crudeness was replaced by dystopic imagery and hopeless honesty. There was no shock value or jokes to add a layer of lightness, listeners were drenched in his tales from the center of darkness. The mixtape proved he had more to offer than offensive one-liners, he had a talent for turning these stories of a born sinner into scenes that played out like cinematic gangster flicks. The mixtape didn’t send the labels running, Drake wasn’t attempting to remix “Versace Rap,” the music was still rough and lacked the refinement needed to make any big noise, but for those who actually heard it, Shyne Coldchain Vol 1 solidified that Vince was a rookie to watch, it was undetermined how bright or how odd his future would be but it was clear he had a future in hip-hop.
It’s now 2015. Four years since he was drafted into the league, four mixtapes, one EP, and one album later Vince Staples is no longer the rookie in the shadows but a star glowing so bright he's become impossible to ignore. This was the year he proved himself to be the rapper that made writers want to write, there aren’t many rappers with his caliber of relative fame that received a number of profiles and thought pieces he did in 2015.
It’s largely due to him being intriguing and entertaining across all mediums. A sharp mind that’s insightful and humorous, he proved to be not an ordinary 22-year-old gangbanger that found success making music. Music that people thoroughly enjoy, his double disc album is still receiving praise from critics and fans alike. From the moment footage of his SXSW performance hit the internet playing an unreleased song that featured thunderous production from Christian Rich and an infectious hook from Future he was making headlines.
When XXL inducted him into their Freshmen List, it felt well deserved, they stamped someone that had yet to truly break out but was almost guaranteed to break through and break through big. Leading up to Summertime 06, his debut album on Def Jam, it just felt like the album would be what pushed Vince Staples into that next tier, that he would be moving up to that deluxe apartment in the sky.
In the final month of 2015, Vince Staple once again shocked the internet by confessing in a recent profile that he could easily see himself leaving rap within the next two years. It came as a surprise. It’s almost impossible to believe someone that has his talent and growing acclaim could simply quit at such an early point in his career.
His position in rap is one that so many dream about, touring the world, making money off music, signing to Def Jam, he has it all and yet is completely unpleased with rap and its current culture. Reading the profile in its entirety, you start to realize that Vince Staples isn’t ordinary, he isn’t passionate about rap culture, the lifestyle isn’t one that he finds pleasant, rap is just a job to him, one that he does well, but if something that paid better came along he would likely leave with little hesitation. It’s this revelation that has made Vince Staples such a compelling artist to watch, he moves like he doesn't have anything to lose.
The most dangerous employee is the one that isn’t afraid of being fired. Vince was never looking for acceptance, he never cared to be embraced by typical rap standards, that’s why he can say what he pleases about Ray J or '90s era hip-hop without fear or repercussions or drop a double disc album in an era that desires less. It’s not Tyler but Vince that’s hip-hop’s walking paradox.
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For someone that is such an incredible rapper, he didn’t want to be a rapper growing up. He wasn’t the kid in high school cyphering at lunch tables or saying things like "Illmatic changed my life!"
His story has been told often, he started hanging out at Syd’s house to escape from trouble, a safe haven where kids were kids, those kids just happened to have rap dreams. In a sense, he’s a product of that environment. Rapping simply because he was around people that rapped, he just happened to have a natural talent for articulating stories in rhyme. Vince doesn’t work with many rappers, the ones that he does are based on personal relationships that go beyond attempting to create the hottest song with the hottest name.
He could’ve easily reached out to fellow freshman Fetty Wap for a hook, or attempted to remix OG Maco’s “U Guessed It” during his promo run, the closest he got to collaborating with a bigger was interpolating Future for "Señorita." His every move is anti, going against the norm, and what’s more against the establishment than quitting in the middle?
It makes complete sense. He’s the rapper that doesn’t like rap culture, the rapper that spent the year touring but hates the road, the rapper that’s not motivated by materialistic desires but understands the importance of money, rap doesn’t seem like the medium for a simple man and it doesn’t get more simple than Vince Staples.
Vince has evolved immensely since the first time I heard him rap, he has reached a tier in his artistry worth every bit of praise he receives. Approval, accolades, reward, none of this seems to phase him. It’s a bit sad to think that some of this year’s best music, best videos, best interviews, and best tweets came from a rapper that might not be around much longer.
Hip-hop needs more artists like Vince Staples, artists that have his resolve for seeing improvement in the communities that love the culture and daring enough to go against the tides. For most, it’s hard to walk away from rap because of the Money Makin Mitch syndrome. The game comes with its own addiction, it’s a rush that comes from being loved, adored, and rich. All things that don’t phase a person like Vince.
The best year of his career comes with this looming possibility that there won’t be many more. That’s why we have to treasure him. If Vince does leave it would be premature, stunting his growth before he could fully become the kind of artist that can change the world. He’s still young, he can change his mind, or truly find a passion that he will have no problem dedicating his life to. He did have a small role in the movie Dope, could Vince be the next rapper turned actor?
We literally might not have new Vince Staples music in 2016, so let's make sure we take a moment to appreciate the most interesting rapper of 2015, Vince Staples.
By Yoh, aka Summertime Yoh, aka @Yoh31.