If it’s true that a person’s behavior is a product of their environment, the recent resurgence of West Coast hip-hop has proved to be fertile soil for the growth of Long Beach emcee Vince Staples. Before rapping, Staples was a trouble-prone student, cycling through six different schools. When asked, the traditionally hoodie-clad Staples remains somewhat vague about his life before he moved in with Odd Future producer Syd tha Kyd after getting kicked out of his house.
Years later, Staples still associates closely with members of the skateboarding art collective, most notably with Earl Sweatshirt (to whom many critics have drawn hasty comparisons), though Staples’s relationship to Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator is notoriously chilly. A verse on Earl’s critically heralded 2010 release Earl served as Staples’s formal introduction to listeners abroad.
Staples’s straightforward, nonchalant fluidity and callous lyrical dexterity stand out, even in the company of the revered Earl, an impressive start to a career that’s still in its infant stages.
Since 2010, Staples has worked with the a wide range of newly minted Los Angeles–based emcees — including features with everyone from YG to Top Dawg Entertainment’s Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q and more recent work with the up-and-coming Joey Fatts (who also hails from the L.B.C.) and Lakewood’s A$ton Matthews (the three of which form the group Cutthroat Boyz). Pittsburgh’s seemingly always working Mac Miller served as a sort of industry Sherpa to Staples, even though the 21-year-old is famously wise beyond his years. Miller would produce Staples’s 2013 Stolen Youth mixtape (under the pseudonym Larry Fisherman) in his L.A. home studio, a communal hub where well-known producers and rappers tend to regularly “roll through.”
Subsequent features on Earl’s highly anticipated Doris would only further serve to raise Staples’s profile, and the discovery of his contract with Def Jam in the album’s linear notes set Internet circles abuzz.
As Vince Staples’s profile and proficiency continue to grow, his verses have maintained the same floating rhythm and cool-as-a-cucumber inflection. He’s as likable and unassuming as a member of Odd Future, delivering lyrical content that speaks explicitly to the deeply troubling issues faced by the millions of disenfranchised American youths. In Staples, Los Angeles might have found the somewhat unnerving sum of many of its parts — a skateboarding street rapper who won’t speak of his past (citing statute of limitations), selling merchandise emblazoned with images of super-soakers and water pistols. As far as the West Coast rap game goes, Staples is this summer’s golden boy.
Vince Staples headlines Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Monday, July 21, at 8 p.m. with The Audio Push and Skeme. For tickets and info, call (805) 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com.