The best rappers tell the best tales. These tales, fictitious or factual but generally a mixture of both are the ones that stand the test of time. Whether it’s one of Kool Keith’s twisted journeys, Rae & Ghost’s grandiose hood tales or most recently Kendrick Lamar’s cinematic grand opus Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – the latter bringing everyone’s attention firmly back on the West coast – and now Vince Staples‘ Def Jam debut.
Despite describing his latest output as a movie, Staples raps ‘Bobby Johnson ain’t my OG, this ain’t no movie, bro’ – this is his real life, not some mindless club throwaway. He clearly understands the need for his words to paint vivid images in the mind of the listener in order for them to really resonate but his message is the hard hitting reality of life is in his hometown of Long Beach: ‘where we’re coming from, it’s not cool, it’s not fun’.
Is it hard to imagine it’s been four years since Staples’ debut appearance on Earl Sweatshirt’s epaR? Not really. Whilst he has maintained close ties with the Odd Future lyricists this is another clear declaration of independence and maturity. Releasing Shyne Coldchain Vol 2 earlier this year – he showed us this quality when dealing with personal issues that many people in similarly hostile environments have go through but few overcome – like a parent’s addiction or illegal activities, the childish naivety of wanting to kill a man or have a hundred grand all because ‘my daddy did it’. But one thing that he has made clear is that he is his own man. 21 years old and not one to glorify, chase or covet the same superficial things that rappers have flaunted for many years or to even sport a chain, Vince is making it very clear that he’ll only ‘record when I have something to say’.
Whether it’s the everyday police injustices he recalls on Hands Up, where he channels a political spirit reminiscent of Tupac, NWA and Public Enemy or on 65 Hunnid where he echoes the sentiment expressed by Lamar in The Art of Peer Pressure – this EP, lasting a mere 24 minutes, is indeed weightier both in the beats and content than most rappers entire careers.
Words: Koyejo Oloko