The last time MTV News spoke to Vince Staples, he was thoroughly cracking us up with his musings about the year in hip-hop and his love for Adele. It was the kind of conversation that proved the 22-year-old isn’t just hilarious; he’s also incredibly candid and expressive.
In an appearance on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable” show that aired Thursday (Jan. 7), Vince again amazed us with another engrossing interview, this time speaking eloquently about his childhood and gang life.
The rapper said that growing up in Long Beach, Calif. meant he was exposed to gang culture early on. So much so, in fact, that his mother sent him to live in Atlanta for several months to try to set him on “the right path.”
“If you’re familiar with the music of Snoop Dogg, that kind of directed our path, along with other things,” he said. “So getting into the gang stuff and the trouble stuff. All the things that kids fall into just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
What a lot of people don’t understand, Vince said, is that gang culture was something he grew up with; it was simply engrained in his family and his community.
“Gang life is just, you know, something that’s a part of our community where we come from,” he explained. “It’s just part of our culture and with idle time and immaturity which comes from being a child, you kinda fall into the wrong things and especially with the wrong guidance.
“If you have nothing better to do, you often find time to do the wrong things,” he continued. “And that’s just kind of where that fell into play […] A gang is a product of the community, not a product of the people.”
Today, Vince isn’t the type of guy to wallow in his regrets (though he did say he’d finish school if he was granted a do-over). Instead, he’s focused on being a positive voice in his community.
“I don’t think it’s something that you extract yourself from, it’s something that you move on from, for the simple fact that these things aren’t based in crime or wrong, these things are based in being part of a certain community,” he said. “And the only way to get away from that community is to literally leave that community or better the community.”
“Clearly a bright dude,” host Dan Le Batard commented after the interview. Got that right.