Vince Staples Takes Us Into His Dangerous World On Summertime '06

The Long Beach rapper gives fans an earful to chew on.

Don't let the title of Vince Staples' debut album Summertime '06 fool you into thinking that this will be easy listening.

Even a brief conversation with the 21-year-old rapper makes it obvious that he's wise beyond his years, and it seems like much of that is due to his upbringing in the rough neighborhood of Long Beach, California, where he's seen his fair share of violence.

Those experiences in the streets are carefully woven throughout his album, and while other rappers choose to glorify the violence that plagues our inner cities, Vince takes a different route that forces his audience to really think about what they're hearing.

Even his video for "Señorita" is a jarring and masterful visual representation of that troubling narrative.

"If you really listen to what's being said [on 'Señorita'], the lyrics are contradicting the beat, which is contradicting the video, and that's all to say that the situation doesn't make sense," Vince explained to MTV News. "The street stuff is stupid and pointless. It's out of necessity and not want. Nobody wants to do that kind of stuff -- I don't care what anybody tells you."

"But when it starts, it's too late," he added. "You can't say 'I don't wanna play anymore.' That's not how it works. Because once blood is shed, [those actions are] for survival. And in this country we tend to ignore that part of it, so I try to use my music to display that in an accurate way."

The Def Jam rapper has obviously made some positive decisions that have given him more opportunities in life, but he understands that the root of the problem won't be easy to fix.

"You have to make it out alive, or unscathed, or with your mind still in tact and that's a very very hard thing to do," he said. "We're not taught to have self worth or self value. So if I don't appreciate my life, and we're at eye level, then why would I appreciate yours?"

Snoop Dogg shone a spotlight on Long Beach when he arrived on the scene with Doggstyle in 1993, but those days are long gone, and Vince explains that his neighborhood has only deteriorated since that point.

"It got worse because we've got the Internet now," he said. "You had to run into somebody to have a problem before, but now you can get into a problem with people over the Internet. My little brother's in jail for 15 years over something petty."

"There are people who will never listen to my music because of where I grew up, and what kind of alliances they think I might have. And I think that's a very sad thing, because at the end of the day, we all grew up together. I know the people that hate me, I know their mothers, I know where they live. We got clouded by our own self-hatred."

That kind of mentality could rightfully drive an artist like Vince Staples -- who now has a Def Jam record deal and the bragging rights to say that No I.D. executive produced his debut album -- out of that environment at the first chance possible. And yet, he still tells his friends that he has absolutely no plans to leave.

"Some people want to remove themselves from the situation so badly. But no matter what happens to me because of it, I will never stray far from where I come from," he said, matter-of-factly. "Because, if that doesn't matter, then what kind of person are you?

That bravery is admirable, especially considering that Jay Z recently told a crowd in New York that artists like the late Chinx, are either criticized for leaving the hood, or they're unfairly targeted when they return.

Vince Staples has already made his decision though.

"I don't partake in any industry stuff, I stay at home," he said. "I haven't left, because that's what's important to me. The music industry is not important to me."

"At the end of the day, you can be as popular as possible, you can have as many records sold as possible, but when you die, no matter what your job is, or what your talent is -- they're going to ask, 'what did you do to change something?' And if you don't stay close to the area you're trying to change, then who are you and what do you really mean?"

Summertime '06 is out on June 30.