Vince Staples Covers Complex Magazine
Vince Staples Talks His New Album, the Corniness of Beef, and Why Fans Don't Really Care
In person and on social media, Vince Staples stays cloaked in a prickly layer of humor and snark. Bleak humor informs his music, too, but it's not the dominant mood—instead, he's typically sincere and serious, even when the subject is a something that could get lighthearted, like a schoolboy love. In an era that doesn't require much hyperbole to think of as "the end times," Staples, 23, cuts a figure like Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman; it's easy to imagine him delivering that iconic line, "What, me worry?"
But the dichotomy between Vince's insouciant public persona and urgent, clear-eyed rapping makes him a figure that we ask the world of. We want him to have the answers—because he's obviously smarter than us, with a scarily nuanced perspective as both an artist and citizen. Details about his upcoming second studio album, Big Fish Theory, are scant, but no doubt the record will be inspected and scrutinized as a how-to manual for contemporary life. Simply put, we want Vince's takes, because we trust him to be honest in a way many people aren't.
Of course, Vince Staples only moves for Vince Staples. In his first Complex Cover interview, conducted by OG hip-hop journalist Touré, he offers his unconventional perspective on rap beef and the underbelly of fandom. He talks with real candor about his family what his community back in Long Beach, California, needs, and why he might not be the guy we think he is.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Touré: We’re in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Vince Staples: I have no idea where we are, but we’re definitely in Mississippi.
Can you feel the energy of the slaves who used to be here?
Of course. They’re everywhere. This is one of those places.
The new album is called Big Fish Theory. Why? What’s that mean?
It encompasses things: Being larger than life in a smaller world, so to say. How rappers are perceived and perceive themselves.
That they represent their community? That they are bigger than their community, but part of it at the same time?
No, it's just that, influence aside, [being a rapper is] a very unique perspective because a lot of people have these larger-than-life personalities and these overbearing senses of wealth and things like that, but they aren't necessarily the majority. We’re still large in our own right, even though we’re kind of in a smaller facilitative space. They’re still not even showing all the hip-hop awards on the Grammys, and things like that, but you still find these great personalities and these great success stories within the small pond that is our music.
I feel like there’s not a distance with you. It's not like there’s the guy on stage, and then there’s the real guy. I feel like there’s less difference or there’s no difference.
I mean, you’ll find a lot of people that kind of situate themselves in a manner of a character or a role throughout the history of music, you know? Kool Moe Dee wasn’t necessarily a cowboy. It’s something that’s been constant, even outside the genre. So, as of now, we have a couple people that are telling their specific personal story, and it’s kind of getting a little bit more in that lane as time goes on. I’m just glad to be amongst that company. The more you make music, the more you learn about yourself, and the things that mean something to you, and I feel like if that wasn't something that was sensed throughout the music then I would be missing something.
So, you’re learning about yourself as you’re making the stuff. What did you learn about yourself in making Big Fish Theory?
I don't think this album was a learning process itself as far as the creation of it. I just think it was a culmination of things I had been learning over the past few years, and coming to an understanding. Often times, music becomes a coping mechanism for people.
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