One of the most talented voices in rap to emerge in the late 2010s, Vince Staples took the hardened perspective of his Long Beach-via-Compton upbringing and elevated it above his contemporaries with forward-thinking production choices and lyrical introspection. After releasing a batch of mixtapes that were well-received by fans and peers alike, he issued his official debut Summertime '06, a 2015 hit that spawned the gold-certified "Norf Norf." Staples quickly followed with 2016's politically charged Prima Donna EP. With his star swiftly rising, he had a breakthrough year in 2017 with a spot on the Black Panther soundtrack, a feature on the Gorillaz track "Ascension," and another hit single, "BagBak," from his critically acclaimed sophomore album, Big Fish Theory. Pivoting to shorter LPs, he released the brisk FM! (2018) and Vince Staples (2021).
Born in Compton, California, Staples grew up in Long Beach, balancing education and sports with street life, which would inform much of his later lyrical content. He surfaced early in the 2010s with a spate of promising appearances on Odd Future-related recordings -- including Earl Sweatshirt's "epaR," Mike G's "Moracular World" and Award Tour EP, the Jet Age of Tomorrow's "Lunchbox," and Domo Genesis' "Elimination Chamber," as well as the 2011 mixtape Shyne Goldchain. In 2012, the rapper released Winter in Prague, a mixtape issued as a free download with the production work handled entirely by Michael Uzowuru. A darker, more introspective mixtape, Stolen Youth, arrived in 2013 with a co-billing to Larry Fisherman (a Mac Miller alias) and verses from Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Mac Miller (as Mac Miller), and Cutthroat Boyz partner Joey Fatts. Staples then performed as the opening act on Miller's Space Migration tour. Among Staples' assists in 2013 were verses on Earl Sweatshirt's Doris and Jhené Aiko's "The Vapors." The rapper continued his steady ascent in 2014 with a fourth mixtape, Shyne Goldchain, Vol. 2, and contributions to Common's Nobody's Smiling -- specifically on the key single "Kingdom," as well as on the deluxe edition bonus track "Out on Bond."
Staples' debut album, Summertime '06, landed in 2015 with production from Clams Casino and No ID. It rose to number three on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop chart and was selected as one of the top albums of 2015 on many notable year-end lists. The following summer, Staples released Prima Donna, a seven-track EP that featured A$AP Rocky and Kilo Kish. Again breaking into the Top Ten on the R&B/hip-hop chart, the EP featured production by James Blake and an accompanying short film. In 2017, in addition to featuring on the Gorillaz album Humanz, Staples issued his sophomore album, Big Fish Theory. The effort featured contributions by Bon Iver, Kilo Kish, Juicy J, Damon Albarn, Kendrick Lamar, Sophie, Flume, Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky, Ty Dolla $ign, and more. The critically acclaimed release peaked in the Top 20 of the Billboard 200, Top R&B/hip-hop, and rap albums charts. Staples followed with an appearance on the Gorillaz track "Ascension" and "Opps" from the chart-topping soundtrack to the film Black Panther.
In late 2018, Staples surprised fans with the unannounced release of his taut and immediate third album, FM! The record featured guests Earl Sweatshirt, Tyga, Ty Dolla $ign, Kamaiyah, Kehlani, and many more. Along with garnering positive critical reviews nearly across the board, the album was also a commercially charting success. The next year, Staples released a series of singles, beginning with "So What? (Episode 01)," followed by "Sheet Music (Episode 02)" and "Hell Bound (Ad 01)," all of which appeared on his online streaming series The Vince Staples Show.
Staples' next album era kicked off in 2021 with the singles "Law of Averages" and "Are You with That?" from his self-titled fourth effort. Released that July, Vince Staples was a quick burst of his typically smart lyricism and inventive production, which turned inward as his most introspective work to date.
© Andy Kellman & Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo