"Live your life man, ask whatever you want," says Vince Staples, taking a seat in London's Ace Hotel. On record 22 year old Long Beach rapper Staples tells foreboding narratives of police harassment and civil unrest, inspired by violent Nineties' blockbusters, deprivation in downtown LA and Uber drivers who resemble serial killers. In person (and on Twitter) he is genuinely funny, thoughtful and forthright.
Championed by Earl Sweatshirt, described by Rolling Stone as "the most exciting man in rap", Staples was also part of this year's XXL 2015 Freshmen class. Proudly sporting a Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt (a band he first discovered through hearing Institutionalized on a Tony Hawk computer game), he discusses what Miley Cyrus got wrong about Kendrick Lamar, why we need a Young Thug film and why he doesn't care if Drake uses a ghostwriter.
You recently said we should bring back MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch...
I just said that because rappers are losers. They pretend they're mad at each other, pretend they can fight, that they're scary as hell and that they sell drugs. I think they should fight each other as I know no-one would win because they've probably never fought before. That's why 50 Cent can say what he wants - did you notice that? They act like they didn't hear him - because they don't want to get beat up!
Who would win out of Miley vs Taylor?
Taylor would whup her ass. Taylor got reach! Taylor's like 6" 3. I don't fuck with Miley Cyrus. I don't like what Miley Cyrus said about Kendrick Lamar. She needs to say sorry. It was very salty. Hasn't she got some Disney money to spend? She should be very happy. I think she confused him with someone else.
She said "Kendrick Lamar sings about LSD and he's cool..."
She didn't know who she was talking about. Kendrick Lamar doesn't have a song about LSD - that's A$AP Rocky. So is it either you don't know what you're talking about or is it all black people look alike? Either one is fine with me but shut the fuck up Miley Cyrus. I love Taylor Swift because she got a little bit of my publishing back with that whole Apple Music thing she did. Anyone who has a problem with Taylor Swift, I'm supporting her because I'm trying to buy a home right now.
You were very funny about conscious hip hop trolls in tracksuits bothering you on Twitter...
I don't care about hip-hop, bro. I care about people. I don't care about anything that was happening in the Eighties, the culture, the breakdancing. I understand the importance of it but that's not necessarily something I think about. It's pretentious to say "This is real hip hop. This is fake hip hop". If we're talking about some of the greatest musicians of all time, how many rappers are on that list? We limit ourselves, not because we're not as good. We don't want to be accepted or beloved.
How do you feel about Tyler The Creator being banned from the UK?
He'll be ok. It's just not fair to his fans. Politics is a tricky situation. When you have people who are trying to control the country, they're able to do what they want. Doesn't matter what I feel about him, matters what they feel about him. They'll let him back. It won't be forever.
If you comb through any major rapper's lyrics, you'd find something objectionable...
Of course. But the crazy thing about it is they would have all been grown men five years ago. And Tyler was a child.
What is the lyric you're most proud of?
My manager's favourite is: "A penny saved is a penny earned / So I'll be stacking up this copper as the city burn." Lot of people don't know there history of the crashes of copper, silver and gold. I got grades in history. My precious metal game is immaculate.
Would you say you grew up in a musical family?
Hell no. When Mom was a little kid she used to like records by this preacher named Reverend Sneed. Shout out to him. He's the preacher at one of my grandma's churches. After he would preach he'd do the crazy Baptist shit and then he would fall on the ground and they would put a cape on him. They'd turn all the lights off and walk him out through the back of the church.
What do you miss about Long Beach?
I miss La Revancha, because we used to go to my friend Kimmy's house and get tacos and fight with her brothers friends. I'm not a big taco fan because you've got to get the sauce and there's just too much damage control. Get a quesadilla, call it a day, go home, take a poop.
What's the best thing about not drinking and not smoking?
To me, I've seen drunk people and I've seen high people and they annoy me. Can you imagine me high or drunk? It wouldn't be very suitable. My Dad was a dopehead so I'm good on that stuff. I had to get over familiar with having seizures. I used to be on the sodas. Now I just drink Sprite, which is different. Sprite is a flavoured beverage of the people.
Now that Straight Outta Compton has been such a success, what hip hop story do you want told next?
One of my homeboys, his dad is Mc Ren so it's cool to see him get his side of the story shown. But I don't really know if I want to see another hip hop story because if we're talking ratios it's more Notorious than Straight Outta Compton. I'd like to see a Young Thug movie in a couple of years. I feel like it would be a mix between Ray and Full Metal Jacket. Who plays Young Thug? Skinny Marlon Wayans from Requiem For A Dream.
Do you think ghostwriting matters?
I know who doesn't write their songs... so I don't care. What did Michael Jackson write again? Tell me that and I'll tell you if it matters. Do we know the splits on the Elvis record? Do we know the splits on a Frank Sinatra record? Stop acting like the world gives a fuck about a rapper. Become something bigger than yourself.
You've also said if you're credited, you're not a ghost writer.
People don't know what the word "ghost" means - they've never seen Casper. I don't like children's movies that make you sad. My nephew made me see 'Up!' They got this old man who is about to die and his wife is dead. I don't want to get old now. You're just by yourself with a dog and the dog talks? I don't want to talk to the dog.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stay out of trouble. Try and go to school for once in your life. And not to go to that T-Mobile store in Downey. That was a horrible idea.
What did you learn from school?
I learned how to transition because I went to six of those things. Got my people skills up a little bit. The point of school is to show you how to follow direction, work within an environment, troubleshoot. Get around every kind of race, every class system. I wish I'd taken advantage of that situation.
What trend needs to stop?
Hip hop chains need to go, bro. Why are you spending £20,000, $10,000, $5,000, $1,000....? I don't even like watches but go get a Rolex! I'm going to start doing inventory: you have to have more bibles than Jesus pieces.
What's on your bucket list?
Make a couple of albums. Get a real job. Get in some movies. Just not have to rap. The best rappers are the ones who don't have to rap anymore. If we're talking skill wise, Andre 3000 is the best rapper of all time - and he doesn't rap. And his house looks very nice. We saw him do a documentary and he has a gold couch. He had on a seersucker shirt. Man, when the shirt is seersucker...
Where do you stand on Tidal?
I got Apple Music but I appreciate Tidal - let everyone get involved. You don't see the bottled water companies taking shots at each other. No-one's on Twitter saying, "Fuck Dasani they trying to do what Arrowhead did!" Dude, let 'em live. Whoever has more FKA Twigs is my favourite streaming service.
What's your vision of the future?
Hopefully none of those hoverboard things. It's not a hoverboard because it doesn't "hover". I want lower mortgage rates - for "in the future" being "in the next six months". But hopefully we'll get rid of this cancer stuff, get some treatment for autism, things that matter in the world.
And if you could buy a house as well...
That would be perfect.
Summertime 06 by Vince Staples (Def Jam) is out now. He tours with ASAP Rocky, Tyler The Creator and Danny Brown in the US this month.
Text Andy Morris