Vince Staples’s Twitter bio has been the same Lil B quote for a while. “I get mad cause the world don't understand me. That's the price I had to pay for this rap game,” it reads, its mission statement borrowed from the opening few seconds of the Oakland rapper’s “Blue Flame (Remix).”
Staples, who is on the cover of our new Summer Music issue, has emerged as one of contemporary rap’s most compelling storytellers, spinning an adolescence spent in service of Long Beach’s 2N Crips into several hard-rattling mixtapes and an official Def Jam debut. But the 22-year-old has also spent the past couple of years moonlighting as a populist public intellectual, using social media to dispense knowledge and roast followers on subjects as varied as sports, early aughts rap, and barbershop politics.
In this video, Staples explains himself in his own words, giving context to some of his funniest, most controversial, and most incisive comments about music, politics, and Michael Jordan.
Those comments may become increasingly precious. A few weeks ago, Staples deleted many of his tweets, and became more active instead on Snapchat, where posts are created to self-destruct and misinterpretation is less of an immediate threat.
The disappearing act wasn’t as spastic as it may appear; Staples, like many of us, was burnt out on years of unsolicited messages and inane arguments with strangers. He made the decision to "relinquish" his account after he found himself moderating an hours-long Twitter debate about slavery. That’s the thing about the internet: while it emboldens some users to speak with an unearned authority, it also encourages others to give away their best ideas for free, while tech startups profit off their emotional and intellectual labor.
Earlier this spring, just a few days after beginning his self-imposed Twitter exile, Staples expanded on his decision a little more. “Nobody is special. We are all the public. It’s a fucking conversation,” he said. “We try to pretend that we’re above and beyond and that shit’s not healthy for anybody.”