Vince Staples Isn't Special, I'm Not Either

Vince Staples is one of the only rappers I believe when he says he doesn't want to be famous.
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Regular. To be described as such is nothing short of an insult. I don’t remember when the word became something ugly, something vile, but regularity is synonymous with boring, basic and conventional. Words that some will spend their entire lives trying to avoid. My life revolves around people who believe they are exceptional, talented, and special—rappers, artists, and creatives that don’t want to be stuck in the world of the mundane. Especially in this era, it’s a full-time job trying to appear as if your life is a bit more interesting. The all-seeing, front-facing camera has to capture you at your best, most exuberant-self for the Gram, for the Snap, for whoever may be watching.

There’s a lot of eyes watching Vince Staples. He's by far one of the most talented rap artists rising the ranks in this new class and now he sits on the cover of Fader’s latest edition, an accomplishment that only further proves he’s someone who deserves your undivided attention. The profile accompanying the cover is written by Jeff Weiss, it’s excellent, another interview that captures why Vince Staples is the human personification of a chest full of treasure.

"Almost everyone inside the dealership wears Italian leather and somber suits, but Staples fidgets in dirty Chucks and a Supreme shirt tucked into belt-less high-waisted Levi’s. On one of the dealership’s walls, a pastel mural depicts the Hollywood Hills. “They keep it regular around here,” Staples says, smirking. “I love it.” You can’t actually tell if he’s being serious or sarcastic." —Fader profile

At the very beginning of the profile, Vince is at the Mercedes-Benz showroom. He’s purchasing a new car, the dealer gushes over his superb credit score, nothing about the scene is unordinary. Just a rapper buying a luxury vehicle, nothing that would blow one's mind. Jeff made sure to highlight what Vince was wearing—dirty Chucks, a Supreme shirt, and high-waist Levi’s without a belt. Fashion that isn’t forward, no diamonds dancing in the sunlight, no gaudy accessory exclaiming mountains of money—compared to other rappers he may appear regular.

To call Vince Staples regular wouldn’t offend him, there's a good chance that he will accept the title happily. A rapper that wants to be regular, not regular like J. Cole, but regular like your actual, everyday men and women who are fully plugged into the grid. People who aren’t in the spotlight, who aren’t on the scene, the modest lifestyle of a man with a wife, two kids, and a house somewhere in the suburbs on the outskirts of a big city. Vince doesn’t want to be the biggest rapper in the world, he doesn’t want to be caught up with a Kardashian, there’s no desire in his bones to be anything more than a regular person. If you watch the video clip that’s included with the Fader profile, he expresses nonchalantly that nobody is special—no musicians, no public figures, no one at all. Jay Z told us he'd rather die enormous than live dormant and here comes Vince seeing promise in the opposite.

“When you act regular, they treat you regular.” Spend time around Staples and you’ll repeatedly hear “regular” used as an aspirational ideal. For him, the word describes a life in between being an active gang member and being a super-famous rapper, maybe something closer to the type of person he might’ve been had he not been forced to abandon his erstwhile grad school plans - Fader 2016

Rapping was a way to keep him out of trouble and it became a job that put him in the spotlight, a spotlight he never truly desired. Vince’s rejection of fame and importance fits with most of his nihilistic views of the world. A mind as sharp as his isn’t going to be tricked into a false sense of significance. In the profile, Jeff writes about the new EP that Vince will be releasing this year, Prima Donna. The first song details a rap star killing himself. A dark theme, one that makes you question if Vince is wary of his own sanity or aware how the rap industry and celebrity culture can lead a man to leap off the ledge. In the past, he’s professed an early retirement from rap a few years from now, something that many have said, but few have followed through on. I believe Vince, I don’t believe he’s here to be in rap for a long time, it almost seems as if he didn’t expect to make it this far. He’s living the dream of many - signed to a major label, consistently touring, critically acclaimed album, a new Mercedes Coupe and able to help his community—I could introduce him to 100 people who would trade their regular lives to walk a mile in his dirty Chucks.

You’ve said before that you don’t go in the studio everyday because you need to live a normal life to have things to rap about.

Because, bro, I don’t care about rap music like that. That shit means nothing to me. I don’t sit at my house looking at vinyls. Shit don’t mean nothing when there’s people out here dying and starving with no hope. That’s what matters, so you don’t want to get jaded and lose sight of where you came from. I might be okay now, but I’m not really okay, because nobody else is okay. - Fader 2015

When I first read Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas I was completely enamored by the story. Hunter S. Thompson's writing is good, at times simply brilliant, but it was the way he painted the lifestyle of Raoul Duke that made you want to drop acid and drive through the desert to create mayhem. People are attracted to those who are living the unorthodox, going against normality, on the very edge of society that most will only see in television, movies, or through music. We don’t look up to the mailman who provides for his family working tirelessly through rain, sleet, or snow but the rockstar with an affinity for drugs, booze, and self-destruction. The heroes that don’t wear capes who stay in the public eye are the rich and famous, not the regular and unknown. So we yearn to have what they have, live the way they live, escape the cycle as they have. And yet here comes Vince Staples ready to take his earnings and leave with hopes of never returning. Making me wonder could I do the same?

I share a modest apartment with my older brother who works at Verizon Wireless. He has a regular job, a regular 2015 Impala with a regular car note, a regular girlfriend, they go on regular dates, regular vacations and might have a regular wedding, with regular kids, and enjoy their regular lives. I’m pretty sure they both have some big, crazy dream that they aren’t chasing and they aren’t wrong for deciding not to take that leap into the unknown. They work hard and reap the benefits of their labor. I watch them come and go every day, clocking in and clocking out, not worried about being seen by society as anything more or less. They won’t be immortals that the entire world will remember, they won’t produce any art that will stand the test of time, and they are perfectly happy within their regular bubble. My brother is Phonte’s “Good Fight” in comparison to my Kanye’s “Spaceships.” Sometimes from the corner of my eye, I watch him go to bed at a decent hour while I’m up writing and wonder could I go back. The allure of a paid vacation, of promotions, of actually clocking out instead of working tirelessly at 4-in-the-morning. Say what you will about a 9-to-5 but at least there’s a moment when you can go home and be away from life at work. Here, there’s not a single minute of your life that you couldn't potentially turn into your work. 

Making a living as an artist isn’t easy. It’s actually hard, much harder than anyone will admit. The moment you start spilling out the hardships, it’s like you're complaining about having the life that someone else desires, a life that is about maximizing the good and minimizing the bad. I could never be Hunter S. Thompson the outlaw, but I also can’t be Hunter S. Thompson the bank clerk. A friend once told me that I have the only job he can’t apply for and that day I felt as if I escaped some invisible regular box, that I was outside of the cycle, but the more I think about it, the more I wouldn’t recommend most to work the way I do. The life of a writer is far from usual, my last year has been something out of a movie, but just like Vince stated, I don’t feel special for it. No one is truly special, we are all regular people with irregular jobs and lifestyles. Nothing more.

There’s a book I recently purchased by Dave Hickey called Pirates and Farmers. It’s full of essays on taste. The self-titled chapter explains how humans are divided into two groups - the pirates and the farmers. He states, “Farmers build fences and control borders. Pirates tear down fences and cross borders.” The entire chapter is worth its own article, but it’s very important to understand Dave believes pirates are born not made. The life of an artist is parallel to the life of a pirate, but Vince is a pirate who hopes of becoming a farmer. Of course he does, the life of a pirate is hard having to constantly tear down the fences they build, cross the borders they police, conquer the seven seas, the relaxing life of a farmer can look alluring after years of a lot of hell for a little treasure, especially when all your loved ones are still living on the farm as well.

At the end of the chapter there’s a small portion about a pirate retirement:

“Herein resides the paradox of pirate retirement. You can’t do it. Piracy is a genetic proclivity. You strap on your peg leg, don your eye patch, take a swig of rum, and die at the helm or by the blade, or you end up destitute in Port Royale”

You live and die as a pirate. You live and die as an artist. There’s no regular or special that can change what's inside you. Vince Staples will never be able to escape the fact he isn’t meant to be a farmer. He can retire from rap, but he can’t retire from the path of a pirate. Neither can I. No artist can, for better or worse.

By Yoh, aka Captain Jack Sparryoh, aka @Yoh31

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