“I’m here to tell the world I’m from Ramona Park”
This is supposed to be the place where guns clap more than hands do at a Broadway show. This is supposed to be an area where the distrust you have for someone you walk past on the street is just as strong as it is for your own mother. This is supposed to be the place where blue on the outside of a vain is just as vibrant as the blood on the inside. This is the place where the fight to live is harder than the battle against Scorpion in Mortal Kombat. Ramona Park is the land of crude, and nah, I haven’t been there once. But somehow over the years, Vince Staples has been able to put us on a quick flight there and back via two headphones in our right and left ears.
West coast hip-hop has an endless book of stories. Yes, the typical story of hip-hop speaks about originating on the east coast, however hip-hop is more than recognition; it’s about exemplifying a lifestyle. Just like there’s a Brownsville or South Jamaica, Queens in New York, there is also a Compton or Long Beach in California. Long Beach, California is known for breeding some of the grittiest artists of all time. Back in an era where sales weren’t the number one priority, people across the world fell in love with the story of hip-hop and struggle being told by Long Beach’s finest orators in Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and Nate Dogg. These legends can sleep well at night knowing that the ball of the city is being effortlessly spun on one man’s finger; Vince Staples.
The most compelling part of the story is that he didn’t even want to rap. While being interviewed on the Breakfast Club back in 2016, Vince explained how rap was never a dream to him; he was doing it because it made a check. Vince explained how he wanted to go to college but when he found out that he could get paid from talking, he took off with it. So how the hell can a man with an indirect passion be so good at rapping? After linking up with Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt and Syd Tha Kyd for leisure, Vince dropped his first mixtape back in December of 2011, called Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1. When you initially listen to the project, it sounds like a product of Odd Future influence but truthfully, it went way harder than that. It was noted very early that Vince had a knack of making the most hood situations be applicable to anyone’s ear. You didn’t have to grow up as a Crip, or shoot guns for fun, but when Vince rapped, he said things that made us all double take, and instantly took us to a direct moment in our lives.
“I never had belief in Christ, cause in the pictures he was white.”
His sadistic delivery was like a bus trip across the country. Over the course of 3 minutes, it could feel like hours of looking out the window in moments of reflection. His aura reminded me of Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” in the sense that a person’s inside must really explode with darkness before the impenetrable shell fully molds on the outside. In 2013, Vince Staples dropped Stolen Youth, executively produced by Mac Miller; this was exactly what he needed to take the crown. Two projects in, he was mastering the art of articulating his creativity with bars that hit as deep as a bible verse would. When the clouds rain over your parade, the first thing you do is challenge your reality. When you challenge your reality, you then find outlets to cope with your mental thought processes, like religion. But when nothing changes, after a guaranteed solution has failed, you question your full existence period. Stolen Youth was the perfect summary of being 19 years old when you’re young enough to learn, but old enough to be reintroduced to the world once again.
“I wanna ask God why the Bible lied to me/ Just full of politics, leaving niggas without a sin/ Is it false prophets who forged the religious documents/ I done spent my whole life sinning without a consequence.”
In March of 2014, he released his third solo project Shyne Coldchain Vol 2, serving as the sequel to his very first tape. Gaining more notoriety in the industry, this mixtape featured the likes of producers Michael Uzowuru, who Vince dropped a project with in 2012, the legendary No ID, and his homeboy, Earl Sweatshirt. In addition, the project also featured vocals from James Fauntleroy on the classic “Nate” and yet another musical appearance from Jhene Aiko. The buzz around his name was ringing in everyone’s ear by this point. His last project of 2014, Hell Can Wait, earned him a spot on XXL’s Freshman Class of 2015 and added him to list of princes coming out of the west with Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, while Kendrick newly acquired his crown as the king of the west.
In a lot of ways, Vince staples is a representation of new school gangster rap. Gangster rappers tell their stories through a microphone, and as mentioned earlier, people fall in love with the verbal art created. Once they gain this buzz and notoriety across their cities and countries, they begin to transition their lifestyles due to the fame and money they are newly introduced to. They have oftentimes been forced to live a certain way for so long that when they have the opportunity for change, they take it and never really look back. No, they might not ever forget where they come from, but they do begin to show appreciation in the fact that they can now buy diamonds for their kids or thank God for the blessings they received. What’s truly remarkable about Vince Staples is the fact that he doesn’t care about the fame or the branding. He still raps about cooling in the park and shooting people in the face, the same way he did 4-5 years ago when he started. When your 23-24 years old and everyone knows your name and music, it does something to the way you think and the life you live. But even at his peak, dropping his critically acclaimed debut album Summertime ’06 and stock increasing EP Prima Donna, Vince is on the same old shit and in today’s music, that’s very hard to find. That’s what new school gangster rap is; letting the world and its changes adjust around you, rather than adjusting yourself for the world.
“Livin’ for the True Religion is broke shit/ I can spend that on a MAC with a long clip.”
Vince Staple’s latest album Big Fish Theory is out now. The album was released in the 3rd quarter of 2017, and is produced with heavy house and techno influences. Vince recruited the industry’s best Kendrick Lamar, TY$, and A$AP Rocky for a couple features but also kept the people who have been around since project one, like Kilo Kush. Big Fish Theory has luminous lyricism that appeals to the mass genre of dance, colliding beats that make you move and content of politics and nightmares. Stream the album via Apple Music now, and listen for the same dreams created since 2011.
The west coast has always been historic for the legends they produce. You can call him the rookie of the west but rookies soon become all stars. We’ve watched a steady increase come year after year and well, I don’t think anyone in his class is touching him right now. Ladies and gentleman, Vince Staples; fresh out the west.
By K. High