Vince Staples // “I Just Wanna Play My Part”

Two weeks after the release of his debut double album, Summertime ’06, Vince Staples has quickly entered the spotlight as the talk of hip-hop heads and music lovers alike. With a handful of tours, mixtapes, and recent cameo appearance in Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope under his belt, Vince is one of many icons to watch this summer. As with all musicians that resonate with me, I want to know more than their verses, hooks, and projects; I yearn to decode the faces behind the music we enjoy. Vince is no exception to my wormhole of discovery.

The first time I heard any music from the Long Beach MC was during his opening set for Joey Bada$$ during his B4.DA.$$ tour late last October at San Diego’s World Beat Center. He was showcasing his freshly released Hell Can Wait EP, sharing the stage with the self-proclaimed “Badmon” and fellow Pro Era members Nyck Caution, CJ Fly, and Kirk Knight. While a large portion of concert-goers likely gauge which events to attend based on headliners, one role of the (opening) performers is to entice the already-familiar fans, gain some new ones, and leave a lasting impression on the entire audience. Vince, as well as the rest of the performers, captured the attention of and controlled the audience with a mic, delivering an overall great show.

Following his commercial debut on behalf of Def Jam Records, Vince remained quiet in terms of releasing solo work but kept his followers happy with a myriad of guest appearances, including one on the sophomore album of close companion Earl Sweatshirt, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, providing listeners with a verse on the final track, “Wool.” Vince also found himself a spot on the newest album from Wu-Tang Clan veteran Ghostface Killah, titled Twelve Reasons to Die II, on the sixth track of the project, “Get the Money.” Vince even made his way into one of the music courses I recently finished at UCSD, with the Hell Can Wait EP freshly in the iTunes library of hip-hop connoisseur and instructor, Dr. Anthony Burr, who gave us the luxury of listening to “Blue Suede” during one of his lectures.

Despite sustaining his presence in the music industry via the aforementioned guest appearances, the projects we have seen thus far from Vince utilize minimal features from other artists. While many aspiring musicians dream of collaborating with the classics, he sees no reason to introduce another perspective unless it complements his own vision. In a recent interview with Stereogum, Vince states, “It’s about the song and not the name.” The rising artist is unconcerned with popularity, reception, and radio play. Many of his stories prove to be so esoteric and idiosyncratic that it would be a disservice to the art to have anyone else try to (help) tell them.

“I wanna be an example to my homies to say that you can do whatever you wanna do. It’s up to me to push them to push this community.”

Vince recently unveiled his Obey Your Thirst episode in collaboration with Fader Magazine and Sprite. In this brief documentary and throughout many of his interviews, the West Coast rapper emphasizes the significance of a symbiotic relationship with one’s community. Vince even attributes part of his decision to travel down the path of a musician to those that surround him and realized that he could make a difference. Maintaining a strong connection with your roots proves to be one of the many elements required for success.

One of the most enlightening parts of learning more about artists is discovering the handful of gems of wisdom each of them have to offer to listeners that may not (as easily) be found in or appropriately manifested through their music. This past Thursday Vince was welcomed to Apple’s Meet the Musician series, blessing the audience with more of his erudition and expounded upon what it’s like working with Inglewood’s own James Fauntelroy, who allegedly has terabytes of music ready to be born. During the live Q&A towards the end of the interview, Vince delivered yet another one of his scrutinies of society:

“Everything that we think about people […] is based off something we’ve seen that has nothing to do with them. […] All the wrong things matter in this world we live in. […] We just need a better understanding of what’s real and what’s not in this world because, y’know, we care about the wrong things.”

Vince continues his statement by referring to the recent Troy Ave incident, whose recent album, Major Without a Deal, sold 4,000 copies its first week. As in the aforementioned quote, “all the wrong things matter in this world we live in.” In the world of musicians, success is gauged on a monetary scale, most notably by album sales; however, especially in this age of music piracy, we must consider other factors, such as personality, motivations, and passion, that cannot as easily be quantified. Just because Troy Ave’s last album supposedly “bombed” does not mean he isn’t successful. Vince aims to drive home the idea that we perceive others based on superficial qualities that society has given value to rather than what truly matters. Check out the full interview here.

“It gets kinda cluttered when everybody’s trying to follow the leader and the leader doesn’t even know where they’re going. None of us know where we’re going […] Everybody got a purpose and you just gotta find yours and just go for it.”

Alongside the brutal honesty he preserves in his music, the Long Beach MC (though he denies this) has a clear purpose in mind: Vince aims to be the voice of the unheard, placing the fame, money, and glamorization of the street life on the back-burner to represent his community. The philosophy he has curated definitely influences my own perception of the world. He encourages his audience to pursue their own paths instead of relying on idols to pave the way for them. We all have our own destiny, but many lack the circumstances, motivation, and courage to progress toward their aspirations. Fortunately, music and the faces behind the sound are prime examples of the several conduits for inspiration and with an endless reach.

If you’d like a chance to experience this MC on stage, Vince is set to head back to the States to wrap up his mini-tour, most notably Chicago this weekend for the annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Don’t fret if he isn’t stopping by your city this round; in a recent tweet, he assured us that these shows are not the definitive album tour:

From embracing your roots and staying humble to praising the overlooked significance of Ray J, Vince Staples is a wise West Coast icon that you’ve only heard the start of.

Purchase Summertime ’06 here, pick up some exclusive merchandise and physical copies of the album here and stream the full project below.

[Image From Tony Nelson of Star Tribune]

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