One of the most well respected, up and coming rappers of the new school is Vince Staples. He doesn’t get much radio play, and you won’t hear him on a Kanye West or Drake track, but Vince is one of the most talented out. Most of his exposure comes from Earl Sweatshirt’s debut mixtape, “Earl”, features with Mac Miller and Common, and his newest studio release “Summertime ‘06”. He’s finally receiving the props he deserves after pushing out his major label debut through Def Jam records. You could have caught his appearance on a recent BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher, or even seen his new video for one of his album singles, “Norf Norf”.
Vince also recently finished touring with A$AP Rocky, Tyler, The Creator, and Danny Brown, but at the show I attended he was clearly the least known of the bunch. If you’ve been sleeping on Staples, or even follow him pretty heavily after his recent “90’s hip-hop” twitter controversy, there are bound to be some hidden gems of his that any rap lover needs to hear.
The first time I ever heard Vince spit a verse was on this unforgettable track by Earl Sweatshirt. Earl kept the length of the mixtape short, but made sure that every song packed its own punch and held its own. Vince, at the time virtually unknown, surprised listeners with a shocking/gruesome set of bars that easily rivaled Earl’s complex and smooth rhyme schemes. Hands down the best feature, perhaps even the best verse on the whole project. This brought his name into the limelight and gathered anticipation for this no name rapper to make some moves of his own.
Riding off of the success of “Earl”, the spotlight was now shining on Vince. Using rap as a way to keep himself off of the streets and out of the gang life, Vince finally put together a project of his own. In 2011, Vince dropped “Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1” featuring verses from frequent collaborators such as Mike G, Kilo Kish, and SK LaFlare. My favorite track off of the release, “Versace Rap”, helped to define the typical themes of Vince’s music. On this song he raps about his family, life in Long Beach, and his views on religion and God. The best part about Staples’ music is how his life experience shapes his style and lyrical content, and this was one of the first songs to truly give us an inside look at the man behind the mic.
For the next project, “Winter In Prague” Vince felt a lot more comfortable on the mic and started to branch out more with his beat selection and style. The entirety of this mixtape was produced by close friend Michael Uzowuru from Los Angeles. Michael was similar to Vince in the fact that they were both new to the realm of Hip-Hop. At the time, both were still under the radar, but the positive reception of the collab worked to help them spring out of the underground. This specific track shows Vince flowing over a unique west coast sound that anyone could bob their head to.
Back Sellin’ Crack
Not even a full year later, Vincent came right back with yet another rapper/producer collaborative mixtape. After returning from Samoa, Earl Sweatshirt introduced Vince to Mac Miller through a mutual friendship. Vince had plenty of bars to provide and Mac had begun testing his hand at beat production, so the two decided it just made sense to combine and bless us with “Stolen Youth”. This mixtape featured many surprising features from talented top-tier rappers, including Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Da$h, and of course Mac Miller, which brought more ears for Staples. On “Back Sellin’ Crack” Vince and ScHoolboy show off some of their most introspective lines. These two gangster rap stars have great chemistry and Mr. Miller’s beat sets the mood just right.
If you’ve recently found yourself listening to Hip-Hop, then this song is most likely the first time you heard Vince rhyme. Earl Sweatshirt went to boarding school in Samoa soon after he gained fame from his debut mixtape. He returned two years later, and of course fans and the like were ready to hear what he had to offer after his break from music. Earl’s debut studio album “Doris” had a huge presence from Vince with various guest verses, interludes, etc. The single “Hive” received a dark and grim video treatment with Vince and Casey Veggies making an appearance. This was arguably the greatest video of 2013 period, along with the song itself. All of the verses on this song are well thought out, complex, polished and frankly, mind-blowing. Earl one ups himself with two back to back spectacular verses, in my opinion the best of his career, but Vince stands his ground and lives up to the standards set before him. If you haven’t heard this one already its hard not to be obsessed after watching the video.
2014 was an even bigger year for Vince Staples. Critics were praising him for his work on “Doris” and his name was finally everywhere on Youtube, Soundcloud, and more. Vince dropped two projects within the span of a couple of months. The long awaited sequel to his debut, “Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2” and an iTunes EP “Hell Can Wait”. The quality jump in 2014 was in part due to a new friendship with legendary producer No I.D. who had a huge part in both releases. “Nate” was one of the few songs not produced by No I.D. but the mixing and mastering sounds a lot clearer and still sounds like a typical Vince song. This one reminds me of his older work, but has a cleaner sound to it and is a top five fan favorite.
This year Vince recently released his long awaited album “Summertime ‘06” after signing with Def Jam records. This double disc, 20 song LP is the epitome of Vince Staples. It features a combination of his style throughout the years but refines it perfectly. 2015 was a huge year for rap releases and Vince had a lot of competition dropping in the same year as Drake, Kendrick, Mac Miller, Travi$ Scott, and pretty much any other rapper in your iTunes library. “Summertime ‘06” holds its own against all of their albums and is my personal favorite of the bunch. “Norf Norf” shows Vince at his best rapping over a bass heavy Clams Casino beat, and shows he can make a song that anyone could like. Play this one on some nice speakers, trust me.
There are plenty more tracks I could have included on the list, but to be honest every Vince track is essential. Not once have I heard a song I didn’t like by him, which is rare for an artist in any genre of music. He has a plethora of free releases you can find on Datpiff and Youtube, but I suggest you purchase his iTunes releases too. You won’t be disappointed.