Vince Staples isn’t scared of much. In “Smoke and Retribution”, his latest release with Flume and Kučka, as he spits pensive couplets against Flume's emotive, jagged sonic backdrop, the energy is undeniable. It's as though we’re hearing a rapper go Super-Saiyan before our very ears. An artist getting stronger. A young man growing up.
There’s a sense that Vince Staples has always been older than his years. Both on record and in interviews, his cerebral, emotionally intelligent way of conveying words and ideas has impressed critics, journalists and fans so much that he’s beginning to garner a young lion status among Hip-Hop heads. His debut album was met with a frenzied response from fans and critics eagerly searching for a new rap star - one who breaks loose from the weary blueprints of commercial, media-savvy, over-saturated gangster rap, and gives Hip-Hop an undiluted dose of raw feeling.
I’m given the privilege of a lengthy phone call with the 22-year-old rapper, while he waits to soundcheck for a tour date in Iowa – “the cradle of civilization”, he calls it. I laugh tell him that I thought the Middle East was regarded as the cradle of civilization. He laughs and reinforces his statement. “Nah. It’s Iowa.”
I come to the interview armed with questions about America’s political landscape, and how his work fits into it. I want to hear his views on the presidential race. Which artists does he admire? Who would he have over for dinner? What situations in his youth informed his creative process? Middle America has just terrified us Europeans by allowing Donald Trump to storm Super Tuesday with his army of blackshirts. So I decide to go in big. What would President Staples' America look like? His response is simple and disarming:
'It's not my right to control the lives of others.’
Fair point. So I ask him if he thinks America is in trouble, and he responds like a game of Wack-a-Mole.
‘I don’t know if America is the problem. I think people are the problem.’