Sober musicians are supposedly rare. Yet, one of the most interesting rappers currently working, Vince Staples, has staved off drugs his entire life.
In a new interview with GQ, Vince explained how the circumstances of his surroundings growing up informed his choice to stay away from drugs.
“What I'm saying is: The drug usage was the last thing on my mind,” Vince said. “When you're surrounded with death and dismay and poverty and all these things that happen every day, I didn't have time to worry about using or partaking in certain things. People where I come from don't use drugs in a recreational sense. We're not at a party, or at the rock show, or at the rap show, doing lines in the bathroom.
“Where I come from, life comes day after day after day, and people use these things to cope. People use drugs as a coping mechanism, and I've always held that reality. Reality hurts, but so does addiction—it's just which pain you choose. That's the reality of my situation. I don't know if my father doing or selling drugs affected me not doing drugs. I don't know if the dozens of friends I lost in middle or high school affected me not doing drugs. I don't necessarily know. All I know is that it's not just one thing. Life isn't one-sided. We all have different things that we go through, and different things that we see, and these things collectively go together to make us the people that we are today.
“I'm a hundred percent sure it played some part, but I never had time to think about whether my father's addiction issues led to me not doing drugs, because I was too busy trying to cope with the reality of people dying and people trying to kill me every day. That was really where my focus was. When you have to think about your next 15 minutes—you have to think about the walk to the store, you have to think about how you're getting to school, you have to think about the bus ride home, you have to think about how you're going to sneak a gun into the football game—the last thing I was thinking about was getting high.”
Everything Vince said, of course, makes perfect sense. When you are growing up and worrying about survival at every turn, there is no time and little desire to kick back and succumb to a party lifestyle. While few can imagine the life Vince Staples led as a young man, we can understand privileging his need to survive over a desire to escape his surroundings.
In truth, Vince Staples sobriety is a note on how bifurcated the country remains. As Vince noted himself, he’s lived an entirely different life from the other musicians in the GQ piece. He has lived an entirely different life from a majority of his listeners—a major theme of his music. With that, we appreciate any and all insights Vince Staples provides into his psyche.