In Eight Nights, Vince Staples Made the Most Personal Album of His Career

Vince Staples
Tyree Harris*

Vince Staples

As the late Mac Miller put it, "Vince doesn't breathe, he has gills." In conversation with Vince Staples, his train of thought can change on a dime and leave you in the dust like an Allen Iverson crossover. It's been nearly three years since he released his radio show-themed FM! album, and Staples has finally returned this Friday (July 9) -- peeling back the layers with his eponymous fourth studio album.

Crafted over the course of eight nights in December -- possibly following the Hanukkah schedule -- the Long Beach native locked in with frequent collaborator Kenny Beats on the production side to make about 30 tracks, before whittling down to 10 for his compact 22-minute LP sprint.

Staples still charts his own path and doesn't follow rap's trends at the moment. The self-titled LP finds the 28-year-old more personal than ever and although he claims to have been telling similar stories in his music, Staples recognizes that he finally conquered how to make those street tales more palatable for his audience.

"I was just learning how to speak appropriately. How to say things with the right production, tempo, and cadence so that they are understood in the right light," he explains. 

Staples is also juggling the numerous other creative endeavors he has his hands in. In addition to this project, the "Norf Norf" rapper has his graphic novel Limbo Beach, Netflix's The Vince Staples Show, an Amazon podcast, and his next album Ramona Park Broke My Heart in tow.

Check out our interview with Vince Staples, where he speaks on Tyler, The Creator's work ethic paying off, leaving Def Jam for Motown Records, and putting a bow on the Los Angeles Clippers season.

Walk me through what the studio sessions with Kenny Beats were like and how this album came together.

We took out about eight days in December right before Christmas and recorded like 30 songs. Kenny is my friend first and foremost. Doing something with Kenny has always been fun. He's very receptive of the things you say and he's really into details. We had a videographer in every session. 

One thing I noticed is he'll hear the things you say, and tie them into the music. Meaning he'll look at a conversation and work that in a sample -- like the themes in samples are intentional. A lot of them aren't even samples -- things he'll have people do or sing. He's really good at finding things for the moment. He samples based on intention and not the notoriety of the sample of it being a hit song or something.

There's a specific batch of producers and he's one of those. It was cool though, you know very easy to make and very stress-free and painless. He works really hard but once you kind of get the hang of what's going on, that's when it's easy to make something. 

A lot of it is conversation-based. I talk to him so much and he knows the way I speak, the way I work, and the way I frame things. I think that's a big part of it with him. He knows where my head's at essentially. 

It's been three years since 2018's FM! What has changed most about your life since then?

I was 25 and now I'm 28. [It's] just life. Life changes every day so it doesn't need to be much more than that. Pay attention to how life moves around you and moves on. It's the simple things and that will kind of lead you in the right way. 

Do you think people slept on the concept of FM! with the radio show?

No. FM! did just as much as my other projects. If they slept on FM!, they slept on everything. I'm not a numbers guy. When I grew up and listened to artists, I didn't know how much they sold or how big they were. Somebody's listening, so that's the way I look at it, and I'm happy with that. 

Does the podcasting world inspire you? In a recent interview, you said you don't really listen to music much. 

Everyone listens to music, but in a sense I meant -- I'm not researching or studying things of that nature. I've never really been that dude. I just listen to podcasts, because they make the drives go by faster. It's nothing to be inspired by -- you're making music for people, and not making music for music. I think if you understand people, it kind of helps you create more than any song can. 

What are some of your favorite podcasts?

I listen to Joe [Budden], Bomani Jones, and Jalen & Jacoby as well. 

It feels like you opened up a little more on this album. Do you feel like you got more personal?

I was in the studio a lot playing music for people and talking to people. I was talking to some of my homies and peers would be like, "Oh you should put this in a song" or "you should say that" based off conversations. It would be funny, because these would be people that I didn't talk to for a year. I've only done so much in my life. I've been rapping about the same stuff my whole career, but I'm just framing it different. 

Why the move from Def Jam to Motown Records? What's the biggest change there for you?

It's all Universal. It's no new deal or nothing. Just moving on and working the system. That's the way those things work. You have the majors business -- and that's Def Jam, Motown, and Interscope -- and it just made sense for where I was at creatively. It wasn't a re-signing or a new deal. It was just moving within the same machine. Just putting certain things in certain places to make the most sense. Same boss but different office. 

What do you remember most about recording Summertime '06 while living four deep in a one-bedroom?

It was not as fun and f----n cute as it seemed. If you heard my songs, all those things happened. A lot of people from that era are not here anymore. It's a bittersweet time. 

Can you speak to what we've seen from a growth standpoint over the course of the last decade from your friend Tyler, the Creator? He's got the No. 1 album in the country right now. 

Tyler, the Creator works hard. That's my biggest takeaway from Tyler, and it should be a lot of other people's takeaway. Knowing how hard he works, he deserves it. These things were bound to happen when you apply yourself and you work diligently on things -- they will pan out if everything aligns correctly. Very few people push themselves like that.

You named Jay-Z as your rap GOAT in a recent interview. What makes him the greatest in your eyes?

Because he's Jay-Z. There's really no other option -- it's Snoop Dogg or Jay-Z. He's undeniable. I know what people mean by those conversations but I don't subscribe to that s--t. You ask me that based on the parameters of the GOAT, people don't just want to hear who's music you enjoy the most. It's success. Snoop Dogg is still hella famous and loved. Jay-Z is the same but he's still doing it in a music sense. Jay-Z is Jay-Z. It's only one. 

Could we see more TV from you in the future? You got a Netflix show coming.

Yeah, we got The Vince Staples Show. I'm doing that with Netflix and getting that going. And yeah, trying to take up all these opportunities. We got the Limbo Beach graphic novel coming out and hopefully, we can turn that into some kinda television thing. I'm just trying to take advantage of these opportunities. 

What format is The Vince Staples Show going to be?

It's similar to the small skits I put out in 2019. That's basically where we're at and that's going to be an elaboration of that.

Is Ramona Park Broke My Heart your next project?

Yeah, pretty much. I don't know where everything is going to fall, but we're working on all those things right now. In the social media age, why not say what you're doing?

What about a potential podcast from you in the future?

We have a situation we're developing, something in the podcast space with Amazon. So we're working on seeing what we can do that's unique in the space. We want to do something that's not just a talking head so that's what we're doing and wanting to make it a unique experience. 

How do you sum up the Los Angeles Clippers season this year?

I think they did pretty good getting to the Western Conference Finals without a few of their top guys. No Ibaka or Kawhi Leonard. It was a good season.

No more slander for Playoff P, Paul George?

People like to make themselves feel better. The way Paul George gets talked about -- and his stats are nearly identical to Kawhi's. I don't see what the conversation is about. My thing is, he's in the NBA playing basketball, so he's clearly doing something right more than the rest of us. People just evil as hell for no reason. 

On the other side of that, it went terrible for Ben Simmons and the 76ers. What would you tell him if you could talk to him?

People telling him he needs to shoot but we don't tell these other players he needs to shoot, like Giannis. He's doing what he has to do for his team and it's based on the system. When you got Joel Embiid, it's like -- what do you want him to do? People find a reason to be mad at somebody.

As a Clipper fan, how do you feel about Chris Paul being in the Finals?

I'm not rigid on sports, bro. It's a TV show. I'm not emotional about it, so I'm not rooting against anybody -- but I'll have fun here and there. He deserves it. Then on the other side, there's a lot of good dudes like Khris Middleton, P.J. Tucker, and Jrue Holiday. Especially with all the things he's been through with his family, it would be good to see [Jrue] win. 

What's your finals pick?

I would like to see Phoenix win. 

Suns in four.

I like that [fan from the Nuggets series]. He had a nice little hook

He's even getting paid off that. I saw he's on Cameo.

I'm surprised he's not in jail. 

It's funny, the NBA cracked down on the fan incidents and then that became celebrated.

If he was Black, he'd for sure be in jail.