By Peter Slattery
“You can ask anyone that knows me: I hate when it’s loud around me,” said Vince Staples in hushed growl. “I grew up in a very loud place. I heard a lot of ambulances, a lot of helicopters, a lot of gunshots that never made it to the news. The sounds of confusion. I’m used to it.”
It’s just another day in Long Beach, California for twenty-one-year-old rapper Vince Staples, captured by the first episode of Noisey’s “Inside the Beat” series. If you see an interview with Staples or listen to his raps, this kind of no-BS style is his forte. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, and he’s said repeatedly that rap isn’t “fun” to him.
“I got old real fast,” he told Noisey. “I can’t make music that doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Staples is one-third of the hip hop group Cutthroat Boyz, alongside rappers Joey Fatts and Aston Matthews, but you’ve more likely heard of him because of his loose affiliation with Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future. His most notable Odd Future collaboration was a frank, menacing verse on “Hive,” a track on OF member Earl Sweatshirt’s 2013 album, “Doris.” Beside other collaborations with Mac Miller, he’s also released several solo mixtapes and most recently dropped his well-received “Hell Can Wait” EP in early October.
Hip hop aficionados might criticize Staples for a lack of finesse in his rapping flow. However, his more straightforward rapping delivery fits the style and substance of his music better than a flashy, tongue twisting style would. Similar to fellow L.A. rapper and TDE member, Jay Rock, Staples doesn’t try and impress the listener with clever witticisms or vocabulary he looked up in a thesaurus: he just tells gut-wrenching stories in his own gruff voice over pounding instrumentals. When the production fits his narrative, as it does best on “Nate” from his “Shyne Colchain Vol. 2” mixtape or “Screen Door” from his most recent “Hell Can Wait” EP, it’s an incredibly compelling mix.
Staples’ subject matter tends to revolve around family and violence, but he tackles the subjects in a thoughtful and informed, but still hard-hitting fashion that many of his elders and contemporaries haven’t mastered. Many tracks from his latest EP call to mind the work of West Coast rap luminaries of yore, such as N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg, but Staples has pretty much effectively removed the more theatrical elements of these older artists. Tracks like the stellar “Hands Up,” which addresses recent racially charged police brutality across America, point to his growing political consciousness as well, which presents exciting possibilities for his future music.
Key Tracks: “Nate,” “Screen Door,” “Hands Up”
Influenced By: Says he “doesn’t really have influences,” according to Complex
See Also: Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Rock, Mac Miller
Peter Slattery is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.