Summertime ’06 may have propelled Vince Staples into mainstream hip-hop relevance, but he refuses to beat around the bush with his worldview. You can certainly glean as much form Staples recent interview with The Guardian about growing up a Crip, the media’s portrayal of inner city gang culture, and being pigeonholed within hip-hop music.
“If you live in Long Beach, gang members are going to be your friends regardless,” Staples explains. “You don’t get ‘sucked into’ being an American, for example, you live there! Gangs are just part of southern Californian culture, they’ve been there since the late-1800s; the gang culture sets up the schooling, the little-league sports… What are the Boy Scouts? A group of people with a name who do stuff together. It’s just when it become illegal that it becomes a problem.”
Staples feels that the media spins stories like these into contrived gangland episodes that sell (pun intended) the experience short. “I don’t know who benefits from that shit. You’ve just seen lowriders and Dickies suits and niggas Crip-walking. That’s tap-dancing, that’s coonery. Nobody’s told the real story.” This is a sentiment that Staples rails against on Summertime, attempting to strip the cultural paint job and deglamorize the lifestyle while refusing to be boxed in. “I have to be a ‘conscious rapper’, or a ‘gangsta rapper’, when I’m neither…None of that shit is real, it’s just music. It’s like money: this piece of paper worth $20, and this one is worth $1, but it all started on the same blank sheet. It literally means nothing. So I’m not worried about hip-hop culture. I’m worried about people, and where I come from. I don’t really care to be a rapper – I’d rather just be myself.”