KK: And do you feel like you’re still a product of your environment?
VS: I do, but because I left, I see what my environment really is. I went on tour for a long time—that was the longest I’ve ever been away. When I came home, I looked around, and everything was fucking different. My perception had changed. I noticed that, especially in Long Beach because that’s the place I know, motherfuckers say it’s the ghetto; it’s this and that; it’s a bad place. But for the most part, it’s pretty fucking nice and quiet. Everywhere has its problems, but if you walk around like there’s a war going on, you’re going to treat it like it’s a war zone. That’s what we were doing, for no apparent reason. When I was able to escape for a little bit and go do something else with my life, I saw that it wasn’t that bad.
Everywhere has its problems, but if you walk
around like there’s a war going on,
you’re going to treat it like it’s a war zone.
— Vince Staples
KK: What other subjects interest you in your work?
VS: Uncertainty. I’m somebody who thinks too much. Uncertainty, for the most part, about women. I can’t escape them. Every single one of my songs is about girls—nine times out of 10, the same one. Even my most creative shit always comes back to the same point, because you are what you create. For the most part, I never had dreams when I was a kid. It was never, “I want to be this when I grow up.”
VS: I never thought that I was going to have a chance. It was going to be too late; something was going to happen that was going to keep me from reaching my full potential.
KK: Do you think uncertainty is a common theme now because you’re actually doing what you never saw yourself doing? Is it somewhat of an internal battle?
VS: It is. The fact that your whole life is focused on something you could never have envisioned just shows that you don’t know if it’s going to end.
KK: Yeah, and that’s scary as hell.
VS: It is. No matter how successful you are, it reconfirms the fact that you don’t know what the fuck is going on or what the fuck you’re talking about.
KK: For me as an artist, one of the hardest questions you can get from someone is: How would you describe your music? You definitely make rap music, but the production style is varied. Is this purposeful?
VS: Up until 2014 when Hell Can Wait came out, I had never really made any music that I wanted to make. And even then, the only songs I really wanted to make were the Teyana Taylor song [“Limos”], “Blue Suede” and “Fire.” I didn’t want to make “65 Hunnid,” “Screen Door,” or “Feelin’ the Love”—I didn’t like the production style on those.
So that’s when I stopped caring. I told myself I couldn’t make music that I couldn’t listen to anymore. I had reached the point where I was going through a lot of shit in life—a lot of my family was incarcerated; I watched my cousin—my best friend for most of my life—die in the hospital then come back to life. After that I was like, “Fuck it, I’m going to do what I want because this doesn’t mean anything anyway.” That’s when I became successful. Sometimes it might not translate well, but it’s what I want to hear. I want to be able to listen to what I make.
I told myself I couldn’t make music that
I couldn’t listen to anymore.
— Vince Staples
KK: You just put out an EP—how do you know when it’s finished?
VS: I feel like it’s never done, so it’s usually when you don’t know what to do anymore or feel like it’s okay. You have to know when to let go.
KK: Do you agree with the doctrine of performing the “hits”? Or if you’re no longer connected to a song, do you feel that it’s still necessary to perform it?
VS: I don’t think it’s necessary. You can have a good show without doing the hits. I look at performances like film: In action movies, the kidnapping scene is vital, the car blowing up is vital, the shoot-out is vital, but can you still have a good movie without those things? Yes. If you can make those types of films without the stereotypes of the film, you’ve made a greater film, in my opinion. So if I’m making a show, and the show is going to be a visual and auditory experience like a film is, I should be able to use creativity to engage people. Familiarity and creativity don’t always go hand in hand. I watched the Sia performance without knowing any of her songs, and it was one of the greatest shows I’ve seen in my life.
KK: What is your relationship to performance versus recording and writing?
VS: Performing is always great, but is in no way on the same plane as writing. Performing is repetition; you learn how to perform. You can’t learn how to write a good song with conviction. You can learn how to craft bars and things like that, but not how to evoke emotion; that’s something that happens or doesn’t. That’s why writing is interesting to me and probably my favorite part of the process, because it’s hardest for me to do.