The gloriously no-bullshit MC from Long Beach, California talks about the disconnect between "asshole" rappers and the realities of black America, and how he wants to create a more accurate portrait of street life with his music.
Vince Staples is always trying to get his friends to play laser tag, for fun. He destroys anonymous strangers at Call of Duty and then laughs when they call him fat for fun, too. But the 21-year-old rapper—whose songs brim with drug addicts, errant gun wounds, dead friends, absent parents, and other harsh details of a life in Long Beach, California marked by violence from a young age—does not make music for fun.
“Where we’re coming from, it’s not cool, it’s not fun,” he says when we meet at his label Def Jam’s midtown Manhattan office. “And we’re documenting what’s going on in the world that we live in with this music, so it shouldn’t just be some happy stuff.” On his song “Nate”, he talks about wanting to kill someone because he saw his father do it; on “Blue Suede”, he contrasts the colors of the Jordans he wanted with the colors of the flowers left at headstones.