We are beyond fascinated by California rapper Vince Staples, who is scheduled to bring his critically acclaimed debut album 'Summertime '06' to New Zealand for Laneway Festival early next year. The monochrome videos for singles 'Norf Norf' and 'Blue Suede' have been watched around 3 million times apiece on YouTube. “I checked him out cuz he said some shit about 90s rappers but after one song I'll say he's validated to speak,” reads one comment, indicating how Vince is as much a firecracker personality as he is a talented musician; his interviews racking up views in pace with building critical acclaim.
Coup De Main managed to catch Vince in London recently, to talk about teenagehood and fizzy drinks, alongside some of the darker topics pervading hip-hop culture. In person he is witty and brimming with deadpan humour, regardless of the topic. His lyrics reflect those personality traits, and it's not difficult to see why friends of his, such as A$AP Rocky, hold him in esteem as high as his ever-growing audience of fans.
"Music is music, man, you're not supposed to please everybody. If everybody likes your music then you fucking suck. If everybody likes your music then you're doing the birthday song, or the ABC, or some shit."
COUP DE MAIN: How are you feeling about heading to New Zealand for Laneway Festival next year?
VINCE STAPLES: It will be cool, I've never been there before - I don't go a lot of places, so it will be fun to go out there. I've heard great things.
CDM: Earl Sweatshirt played Laneway last year, and The Internet are playing this year - is there anyone else on the line-up that you're psyched to see?
VINCE: I'm looking forward to Grimes - I know her brother.
CDM: He co-directs her videos right?
VINCE: No, he's a gang-member from Compton. He's pretty cool though. His name is Jay Worthy - good dude. And Fetty Wap. I know Fetty Wap's not playing, but you guys should get Fetty Wap down there. That would be great.
CDM: You released your first album, 'Summertime '06', earlier this year. It draws a lot on your teenage years - obviously a creatively rich period for you to source from. What was it about that Summer that made it important enough to name your album after?
VINCE: It was kind of a coming-of-age, and everyone has that in their life, usually during their teenage years - you're just drawing inspiration from one, to reach another. And that's basically the gist of it. [Teenagers] we're not that creative. We sit and eat hamburgers all day.
CDM: If teenagers aren't that creative, why do you think teenagehood is such a common inspiration across so many musical genres?
Vince: Because people try to connect things to kids so they can sell more and sell it to them and get money from them. That's why they sell cigarettes to kids, and alcohol to kids - kids like spending money. It's the way to go.
CDM: In one of your singles, 'Norf Norf', you say that you, “ain't never ran from nothing but the police"--
VINCE: Which is a lie, after I thought about it. I realised that I've ran from a lot of things in my life.
CDM: And then at Reading Festival this year, you had the crowd chanting, "Fuck the police." Police brutality is at the forefront of a lot of people's minds in America right now - do you think there's worldwide solidarity with that?
VINCE: Yeah, there is. I do feel like we need to combat the police a little bit more. The police are very mean people sometimes. Whenever you have people in power, they try to control people. It's not necessarily a bad thing to control people - you can control people for good, you can control people for bad, but you're gonna try and control people. It's human nature, we take a mile when we're given an inch. We're crazy. You see what we did to the animals! They don't even exist anymore! Are all the rhinos dead yet? I think we got like five more rhinos left. We took the trees to make paper, then we said we don't need paper anymore and made iPads, and the trees are still dead. We're crazy.
CDM: In the video for 'Señorita' you've got that shot of a white family watching the events unfold in front of them. Do you think there's an element of spectatorship for people who consume music about difficult or upsetting or violent events that haven't happened to them or anyone they know?
VINCE: It's reality. They don't know what the fuck I'm talking about - they're pretending. If they knew what I was talking about, there wouldn't be a website called Rap Genius. Rap Genius will tell you everything you need to know about this generation. But it's not just white people, it's everybody. No-one's outside themselves nowadays. We live in a very... I wouldn't say selfish, but... I don't know how to explain it, but it's a very weird time right now. Everyone knows everything, but nobody knows shit.
CDM: Linked to that, you've said that you feel like there's “too much hip-hop culture at the moment". Do you think that's linked to technology allowing us to create and consume whatever music we want?
VINCE: I said that before?! I been saying stupid shit. I don't think I mean that. I mean, hip-hop culture is deeply rooted in the wrong things right now. Hip-hop is about drugs right now. It's more so about drugs - about selling drugs, about using drugs - it's bad for kids. Kids die because of drugs. I think there's too much of the wrong type of influences that stem from hip-hop today. I mean, it's cool, I understand why it's like that, but I don't think it's that good. I'm not saying it because I'm being pretentious - I know it because I've been there, I've seen what they do. It's fucking weird.
CDM: You're pretty straight-edge yourself, but one thing that you can't seem to get enough of - according to your Twitter - is Sprite. From the heart, what is it that you love so much about it?
VINCE: As a living, breathing person, you must love things that derive from nature. Sprite is something that derives from both lemons and limes. It's a best of both worlds scenario. Ask those same people, did they like when Mariah Carey and Jay Z made that song together? They'll say yes. That's Sprite.
CDM: Does it taste the same in different countries?
VINCE: Of course, it doesn't taste the same in different countries! That's the beauty of it. You have to be able to differentiate between the different areas of life. It shows that we're all separate people, we're all different, but we're all the same... They just had a big-ass marble on this TV that I think everyone overlooked. And it was very crazy and it was really huge and I'm sad nobody got to see that.
CDM: In 'Lift Me Up', you say, "I need to fight the power, but I need that new Ferrari." Is it hard for you to make music that's saying something worthwhile but still commercially viable?
VINCE: Not at all! I don't care about doing either one. I'm just making songs. Make the songs and they end up being what they're gonna be. Have we ever said before that we need something that's commercial or we need something that's politically conscious? We just live life. That's why we love Young Thug so much. Young Thug is living life.
CDM: You've previously addressed people who didn't like your album, and told them to just “keep buying them 'til you find something you like.” Do you have any plans for how you want your music to evolve in the future?
VINCE: It ain't a suggestion, I don't care how you feel, just keep paying me. Please. I put a please on there too, so it wasn't harmful! Music is music, man, you're not supposed to please everybody. If everybody likes your music then you fucking suck. If everybody likes your music then you're doing the birthday song, or the ABC, or some shit. It's not cool, man.
CDM: You also said if you could start making your own clothes, you'd steal ideas from a lot of other people. Do you think there's always an element of stealing ideas in making music?
VINCE: Of course. Everybody copies everybody all the time. It's like, fucking crazy.
CDM: At the same time as that, A$AP Rocky has said about you that, “Birds of a feather flock together; you be by yourself." What is it about you that distances you from other rap artists?
VINCE: That's such a funny quote from him. Honestly, I have no idea. I think I'm pretty regular. I try to keep it pretty regular; I go to sleep early. I don't know what distances me from other rap artists - I haven't met a lot of 'em. But I think that that's a good thing, because rappers kinda look stupid sometimes. Most of the time. I'm pretty sure I look stupid too a lot.
CDM: Any last words ahead of Laneway Festival 2016?
VINCE: Oh man, hopefully New Zealand let me stay, and they don't kick me out and ban me. And I hope I don't get killed by a kangaroo, 'cuz I heard that happens out there. That's Australia? I'm looking forward to New Zealand. Somebody from Australia told me that if you hit a kangaroo in the street and you have to pull out on the side of the road, it can get back up and murder you - so I'm glad that New Zealand doesn't have those problems. Just sunny New Zealand. Do kiwis originate in New Zealand? Is that the national fruit?
VINCE STAPLES' album 'Summertime '06' is out now - click HERE to purchase it via iTunes.
Watch the 'Norf Norf' music video below…