Interview: Vince Staples On "Summertime '06," Working With No I.D. & The Beauty Of Atlanta Rap
Not just anyone can release a double album these days. With rap release dates becoming more and more elusive, the announcement that Vince Staples' upcoming debut LP, Summertime '06, would be a two-disc opus meant the project was surely something special.
We spoke to the Long Beach rapper about his upcoming album, which serves as a documentation of a formative time in his life -- a summer he remembers vividly, and one that ended with a close friend behind bars; a sentence he's still serving now. Vince also told us about his insistence on "creating a moment," taking inspiration solely from his own experiences, and the "beautiful" music he was listening to that very summer.
Read our interview below. Summertime '06 is out June 30th on Def Jam.
At 20 tracks, you could've easily trimmed "Summertime '06" down to one disc. Why go for a double LP?
I'm not telling people how to listen to my music. Once you purchase it, it's yours. It's up for debate about what you take from it. How you interpret it. I just thought it was a better idea as far as how to categorize music, it made more sense than shoving 20 songs on one disc. It costs money to do these things. I thought that'd be a selfish thing to do-- throw 20 songs on there, save some money, throw it out there. I'd rather give the people something special that they can take home and listen to and be a part of-- creating a moment.
There have been many classic double albums in rap. Were there any projects you looked to for inspiration?
I don't look at anyone for inspiration. If you listen to the music, it's from a very natural, organic place. I try to create something new every time. I do appreciate those things for setting precedence for allowing me to do what I have to do, but as far as looking to them for inspiration or ideas, I try to stay away from that as much as I can, and keep my stories as organic as possible, and try relate to the most people in a unique way as possible.
Your new single, "Senorita", features a sampled hook from Future. Was his sound something you were looking to channel, or was it just something the producer came with that happened to work really well?
That was something that the producer brought on, but it definitely fit into what we were doing. It was a good addition to what we had, and it kind of stood out as far as those things we could do with it. You've seen the visual. It's a very special song. It's one of my better songs, as far as being well-rounded and really getting my point across. I'm happy Christian Rich was able to bring that to us.
Swedish soul singer Snoh Aalegra has some uncredited vocals on the outro. Will we hear more of her on the album?
Yes, she'll be on the album. She's definitely part of the family, but she's just around. That's my friend. Snoh's great.
No ID has been mentoring Snoh, and he executive-produced "Summertime '06". How did he oversee the process?
Just by letting me do what I need to do. Letting me do what I want to do. It's a team effort. We're all pushing toward the same goal, but by providing production and insight into things I didn't really know about, telling me things I didn't know about the business, that's really as far as it goes. He knows to stay clear of certain things because he wants me to grow as an artist, and I really appreciate him for that.
Did he also contribute some instrumentals?
Yes sir, he produced most of it.
We spoke with Joey Fatts recently, and he said you two have some "next-level" music on the way. Will any of that show up on the album?
He's definitely on the album, he's on a song called "Dopeman".
Are you still working with the rest of the Cutthroat Boyz (Joey Fatts and Aston Matthews) fairly regularly?
Those are my friends, it's not a work relationship. I see those dudes every day. Cutthroat is not a rap group. In these days, rap groups; everyone follows each other, everyone's tripping over each other's toes. After Odd Future, every rapper had to have a group of people that they hang out with. If you ask any of us, we're all solo artists at the end of the day. It's not the set-up which most people might think it is.
Who else will we hear on the album?
DJ Dahi, Jhene Aiko, Aston Matthews, and Cocaine 80s.
You've expressed the summer of 2006 was kind of a hard time for you. Why did you choose that timeframe to focus on?
I wouldn't say it was a hard time, but it was a very important time. A debut album to me is sort of coming-of-age, and I had to look towards something I'd experienced that was in that same type of vein. That time period is where I drew my inspiration from. I feel like it's an important time in a man's life. It made me what I am today in a sense. I just wanted to share that with the listener who could be interested in where I come from, and what I've been through. I felt like it was a perfect way to introduce myself to music on a larger scale.
Is there any music you remember listening to at that time?
We were heavy on the Ja Rule, heavy on the Young Dro, heavy on the T.I.. You know what it is... Pharrell, Dem Franchize Boyz movement.
The number one rap songs during that summer were T.I.'s "What You Know," Yung Joc's "It's Going Down," and Young Dro's "Shoulder Lean," so that definitely lines up with your playlist at the time.
That sounds like an amazing time period. That sounds like fun. That sounds beautiful. That sounds like black culture, black history.
Seeing as many of the current rap hits are coming from Atlanta, it sort of ties summer 2015 to summer 2006.
They have it [in Atlanta]. They have the best success ratio, creativity ratio... you know what it is. You saw the documentary. The VH1 documentary. I'm so happy no one was cooking crack in that documentary.
I take it you weren't a fan of Noisey Atlanta?
I love Noisey, I love VICE. I just don't think we need to highlight people making crack in 2015. There's no need to show people with crack and guns. Where I come from, you'll go to jail for that immediately. They will come to your house, and you will go to jail. Why are we showing that to kids? That's Atlanta to you? That's a thriving city with a lot of great shit, and you're showing people selling crack and rappers with guns. That shit is stupid.
Is it more important for you to tell your story than to prove yourself as a rapper?
It's all the same. I like to think of it all as music. No one's fucking with me on anything. It's only one me. We're all just showcasing how we feel about the world, but specifically, and you can make this the headline; no one's really fucking with me, doing what I do. No one does what I do.
Your new album is a look back at the summer of 2006, but your last project ("Hell Can Wait") could be read as somewhat of a reaction to events of police brutality in Ferguson last summer. Do you feel the heat and tension of the season are present in your music?
Well, first off, my music was in no way tied to the events that happened in Ferguson, because I feel like I was not a part of that moment. I did not have to sit there and go through the hardships and heartache of the parents of the people that lost their people. My music was about my life, and what I've been through. Of course, you can relate those things with certain occurrences. What I can say is that life in general comes full circle for a lot of people, and a lot of us are more similar than we think. Music is about life, if my album came out in December it would still be called Summertime '06. It's not about catching a moment, it's about creating one. If we want to create something significant, it has to come from something that we feel passionate about. I'm very passionate about the things that I've seen in my life, how they've effected me, and how telling those stories can affect other people and help other people.