I’m amazed Vince Staples doesn’t have his own TV show or podcast. Every time the Long Beach rapper is in front of a camera or a microphone, the things that come out of his mouth are nothing short of hilarious and poignant, often at the same time.
With Vince’s second full-length album Big Fish Theory arriving next week (June 23), he made an appearance alongside Trevor Noah on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to discuss his new project. As any fan of Vince Staples should know by now, though, when it comes to defining his art, Vince will give an interviewer any answer but a straightforward explanation of his music.
When asked what Big Fish Theory means, Vince responded in perfect Vince fashion with a fantastic analogy likening his music to a painting on the wall of a museum.
"I mean it depends, one thing I look at music as is something that's digestible for the people that want to partake in it. So if you go in a museum, you see a painting on the wall, usually on the side it has the artist’s name, when they created it and the name of the piece. If they’re dead, it'll have when they checked outta here. But as far as my music, I don't ever want to tell somebody exactly what it's about, because it's whatever it means to them."
Rather than attempting to legitimize his art in the eyes of inquirers, Vince reminds us that other forms of art have long since outgrown attempts by critics to be explained in an easily digestible soundbite or news clipping.
We wouldn’t ask Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst what their art “means,” we would simply appreciate their work and ascribe our own personal meaning to it. That’s what art is, it’s an expression of the artist that requires no explanation, and can be enjoyed by a thousand different spectators for a thousand different reasons. Yet, when it comes to hip-hop, artists are still asked to explain or defend their art at every turn.
It’s an understandable notion to want to define a body of work comprised not just of music but of words, but we have to look at hip-hop in a similar fashion as poetry from a critical standpoint. The presence of words in art tends to beg for a literal explanation of their meaning, but just as in poetry, verses in hip-hop are used to express and evoke emotions just as much as they’re meant to tell a structured story, and they must be given that room to breathe and exist as nothing more than an expression of their creator.
With comments like these, Vince isn’t dodging a question based on a lack of realization of his art, he’s consciously setting a precedent to legitimize an art form that is far too often subjected to demands to explain itself.