Interview and text by Jack Mulkern
Last weekend, hip hop artists and aficionados from the world over made their way to a vast field 25 miles out of Minneapolis. It was dreary, rainy and uncommonly cold for the local weather in late May. Only half a mile away was the legendary Canterbury Park racetrack, but no horses were galloping in the mud. Two miles down the road was Valley Fair, the regional capitol of amusement parks, roller-coasters nearly empty. This particular field, though, was full of tens of thousands of ecstatic people attending Soundset, one of the fastest growing festivals in the world.
We had an opportunity to catch up with Vince Staples, a Long Beach musician with deep Odd Future connections but a deeper independent streak. After four mixtapes and a wealth of prominent guest spots, the 21-year-old's debut album, Summertime '06, releases June 30. It's first single, "Señorita," is a bouncing, almost aggressive track arguing with a semi-tragic music box backdrop, well reflected by the video down below..
Alright. Let's have a seat, or whatever's clever for you.
Let me stand real quick.
Definitely. Anyways, good to meet you. How's Soundset been going for you?
Soundset is cool man, it's great to be around all these different artists, all these different people. I was reading earlier it's the biggest hip hop festival, ya know, so.
Yeah, it's kind of crazy to have something this large in a sort of podunk part of the Midwest.
Well this is where it's at, this is where the people are.
And you've been by Minneapolis before?
Nice, those are your boys. And you've got a new album coming out in a couple weeks or so.
Is that still on track for the 30th?
Yeah, you know how that goes.
Gets pushed back and forth.
There's a lot of stuff that's going on, everybody working hard to get it out as fast as possible. But they tell me the 30th is gonna be where it's at. It's looking like we're gonna make it, definitely.
What are the differences between putting out a mixtape and an album? What are the stresses and pressures?
There's no difference, no difference.
It's all the same?
People, they put a barcode on. It's the music man. There's no such thing as any of that shit anyway, they pick it. I'm like, nothing should really be free.
No, it's true. You put your sweat into it.
It's like, it's free anyway. Is this gonna get sold? If people wanna support you, they'll support you. But an album, a mixtape, you should be making good music regardless. I feel like people forget that the general idea of the mix ape was that you wanted other people's beats for a long time.
To spread it around.
Now we might as well just, you know, start selling this shit and get some of these streaming dollars.
So what's next? Are you going to be doing a bunch of touring for the album, or...?
Yeah, touring a lot for the album, trying to get a lot of visuals, got a lot of video, just doing everything we can to have it have the longest life and have the most impact on people's lives as possible. And once we get it there, it's not over. And that's what's missing in music: The impact on people's lives.
And are you enjoying your time with Def Jam? Is that going well for you?
Yes sir; you know, you pick which paper you sign.
Whichever paper gives you the most back.
It depends on what you want from life. I don't want a lot of money, I don't want that shit. I just want to give, to have the ability to have my music reach as many people as possible so we can do something culturally that's gonna shift the direction of things. Especially in hip hop, we forget that part of the game. When you think about these rock and roll legends, these moguls, all these people whose music will stand the test of time, it wasn't about sales.