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Rapper Vince Staples continues to squash critics and tackle important social issues on current tour



For Long Beach, California, rapper Vince Staples, being a popular musician isn’t always as glamorous as it might appear.

“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a rapper,” Staples said in a phone interview with the Emerald. “I’m not going to lie and say that I did. But I definitely appreciate the things that it’s opened up for me and given me a life.”  

Staples first breakthrough performance came when he was featured on three tracks from Earl Sweatshirt’s record “Doris,” which is often considered one of the best Hip-Hop records of 2013. His first hit single, “Norf Norf,” peaked at number 28 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in its first week of release and skyrocketed his career.

Since then, Staples has become one of the most prominent figures in the alternative rap scene. His sophomore album, “Prima Donna,” charted in the Billboard Top 50; he has performed at some of the country’s largest music festivals and earned a reputation as one of the internet’s biggest celebrity trolls.

Despite his recent success, Staples says he approaches his musical career like he would any other job. He fulfills his commitments, writes his music and plays his shows. Some might think this approach means he doesn’t like playing music, but that’s not entirely true.

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it’s just that I take it serious. It’s more about putting on a good show than anything else,” Staples said. “I try my best to put on a good show so people get their money’s worth.”

Many aspects of being a popular musician prove to be a giant headache. Behind the scenes production and dealing with record labels are just some of the things that frustrate the 23-year-old, but being able to support and provide for his family makes it all worth it.

On Feb. 3 Staples released “BagBak,” the first single from his upcoming third studio album. Featuring a gritty beat and Staples’ signature hard-hitting cadence, the track builds on themes from his previous albums; however, the song’s lyrics seem to discuss more controversial social issues than before. Although these issues have recently attracted prolific media attention, Staples doesn’t think that he’s rapping about anything he hasn’t in the past.

“I don’t think it’s political and I don’t think it’s new in all honesty,” Staples said. “These are things that have been going on. Everyone just supposedly cares about it now.”

From taking a shot at America’s prison system to denouncing racial wars, Staples did just about everything except tell the President to suck his dick on his new track — wait, he did that too.

While Staples wouldn’t share details about the upcoming album with the Emerald, fans can expect it to come out “very soon,” according to his label.

His critics like to label him as a “thug” and claim that his music has a negative influence on children, but Staples believes that his music is simply a reflection of the realities he’s faced.

“I am a Black person,” Staples said. “As a Black person I make music from a Black perspective. I can’t make music from the perspective of another race just like I can’t make music from the perspective of a woman because I don’t know what it’s like to be either.”

Now that he’s established himself as a prominent figure in the hip-hop community, Staples understands he has a responsibility to have a positive influence on his younger listeners.

“I want my audience to have the best chance in life and for them to be whatever they want to be and have the best perspective and the best mind,” Staples said. “A lot of that shit they hear when they’re young affects them deep down. Then they’ll think they’re stupid and this and that. I think an understanding of the world they live in will feed their confidence.”

The “Life Aquatic” tour begins on Friday in San Diego. Staples will make a stop at Portland’s Roseland Theater on March 1. New wave Vocalist Kilo Kish is set to open for Staples for the entirety of the world tour. Information about tickets for his show in Portland and for the rest of his world tour can be found on his website, vincestaples.com.

Follow Zach on Twitter: @zach_price24

Watch the video for “Norf Norf” below:

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the date of Staples’s concert as March 5. It is actually March 1. 


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Zach Price

Zach Price

Zach Price is the Editor in Chief of the Emerald. He likes to write about music and watch Trail Blazer games.

Reach Zach at [email protected]