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From Joy Division to Kanye West: 5 albums that changed Vince Staples' life


Vince Staples is one of music’s most fascinating enigmas to receive prominence over the last decade. He’s an impossible character to pin down as just one thing fully. Never typecast or pigeonholed through design — Staples is the definition of unfiltered and unchanged. He always says what is on his mind both through his music, interviews and on his must-follow Twitter account.

Through his unique sound and artistic viewpoint, it’s fair to assume that Staples is a true original. As expected, the albums that changed his life aren’t your typical hip-hop records that one would assume that the 27-year-old was grew up on. Whilst it does feature in his list, hip-hop is not an exclusive influence for the rapper and he sought inspiration in other areans. Staples has been shaped by a kaleidoscope of different sounds from various eras and genres.

The rapper currently has three albums under his belt, and each record has seen him become more and more revered. He doesn’t fit into any of the stereotypes associated with hip-hop, you’re not going to find any in Vince Staples, and his favourite records reflect this. You’re not going to find Vince Staples popping champagne in a nightclub. Instead, the proud teetotaller who never has drunk or taken illicit drugs in his whole life, would rather spend his nights at home playing video-games and drinking Sprite.

He’s an artist who respects others who are seemingly out on their own two feet and doing things their way, rather than following the crowd. Following the release of his emphatic debut record, Summertime ’06 in 2015, Staples opened up to Tidal about the five records that had the greatest impact on his life. They are all classics that helped change culture forever. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Vince Staples’ five favourite records:

Lauryn HillThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

The first pick in Staples’ collection is Lauryn Hill’s illustrious 1998 effort, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The record remains Lauryn Hill’s only solo album, which sounds just as good today as it did when the former Fugees member released it over 20 years ago.

“This is my earliest memory of music,” Staples commented. “My mom had this on cassette and would play it every day while picking me up from school. Between that, India. Arie and Kirk Franklin, this connected with me the most. Whether it was dealing with social issues or simply the emotion behind the music, it helped shape some of the views that I still hold with me today.”

Snoop Dogg – R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece

Snoop Dogg is a figure that has been an important figure in Staples’ life. They both grew up in Long Beach, California and having somebody like Snoop to look up to inserted the rapper with a sense of belief that it was possible to make it. Staples even played in Snoop Dogg’s Youth Football League as a youngster and the Doggfather helped him positively channel his energy.

“One of my favorite Snoop albums,” Staples says about R&G. “It had the right message at the right moment embodying what Long Beach felt like at that point in time. From the production, to what was said, to the videos, everything was perfect. Great memories from this project.”

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

Amy Winehouse’s story is one of the saddest tales in music, a talent taken tragically prematurely, but, the gifts that she left behind continue to inspire generation after generation. Staples paid tribute to Winehouse on ‘Alyssa Interlude’ from his 2018 album, Big Fish Theory, which features a sample taken from an interview that features on Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Amy.

Staples commented: “I don’t really know why I like this album so much in all honesty, but it’s great. Every song puts you in a specific mood that you can’t escape from until it is over. Depressing in a sense but for all the right reasons. A true artist can make you feel both their sorrow and their happiness. You feel all of these emotions back to back and transform them into these stories without noticing the shift. Definitely someone who was gone too soon.”

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Joy Division and hip-hop are worlds that, on the surface, don’t align. Still, the introspective lyricism of Ian Curtis connected with Vince Staples profoundly. The North-West band’s work has surprisingly been an influence not just to Staples. However, other contemporary hip-hop artists like Danny Brown, Lupe Fiasco and Earl Sweatshirt have all also cited Joy Division as musical heroes.

“This was my personal soundtrack at a very low point in my life,” Staples revealed. “In the same way Amy’s album affects your emotions, this album does the same but in a more sinister way. The low vocals somewhat creep over the instruments, creating a hazy experience all around. It is obvious that everything was put into their music and it has a very strong identity because of it.”

Kanye West – College Dropout

West is one of the most influential artists of the 21st Century, and popular music has been two very different beasts pre and post Kanye. Staples decided to keep his eulogization of College Dropout short and sweet on this one, saying: “Kanye West is the greatest of all time and this is his first album. Self-explanatory.”

However, in another interview with The Guardian, Staples divulged: “I heard College Dropout in sixth grade. He’s an artist, where there’s no trajectory, and you can make whatever you want. We call musicians artists, but we don’t treat them like they are, because you can’t tell an artist what to do.

“Imagine walking into a museum and telling Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Robert Longo, Jeff Koons: ‘You should have done this different. I would have used red paint.’ Do you know how crazy they would look at you? I would never in a million years question someone’s craft. I appreciate it for what it is.”