Vince Staples is one of the most unique voices working in hip-hop today. Described by some as “anti-hip hop“, Staples has found a streak of caustic creativity, which has ensured his place in the history books is already guaranteed. But while hip hop may be the most suitable home for categorising Staples’ work, he has learned his craft from a huge array of stars.
Some rappers and producers may keep their sights firmly set on the hip-hop world, picking out choice samples and featuring some of the hottest rappers, but Staples has his eyes all over the musical map, dropping pins on some of rock, pop, soul and metal’s greatest artists. Below, he picks out some of his favourite songwriters of all time.
First up on Staples’ list of songwriting influences is the Bristol-based trip-hop pioneers Portishead, about which Staples said when speaking to The Guardian: “Sometimes music gives you a kneejerk reaction. You hear it, and it makes you feel a certain way. That was one of those things; I hadn’t heard anything like it. I feel like the songwriting was very honest and also had a lot of depth. But music was never something I thought long about when I was a kid. It was just in the background of my life. My parents listened to gospel music, and that wasn’t my thing.”
A soul hero also crept up as a major influence for Staples, as he picked out Sam Cooke as an inspiration to his work: “My mom liked that shit. I like ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, I like ‘Chain Gang’. Frankie Lymon, too. Frankie Lymon’s tone of voice reminds me of Young Thug.” Staples also picks out Amy Winehouse as another soul legend, saying, “She was honest, and honesty is important. She showed the evil within people, especially within fans.”
Some hip-hop influences creep through, however, as Staples notes Outkast and Andre 3000 as huge cultural touchpoints for his career. “The only rap album my family had was Outkast’s Stankonia,” confirmed Staples. “André is a great songwriter. He’s the best. It’s a unique writing style. It’s not a duplicate of anything; it’s the way he structures his sentences and delivery. It’s not directed by the punchline, there’s no crescendo – it’s just like: this is what happened.”
Staples also picks out Scarface, Lil Boosie and Kanye West as big influences, noting the latter as “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, and 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.”
Depeche Mode, Nena and Daft Punk make up the rest of the impressive list, which you can find in full below.
Vince Staples’ 10 favourite songwriters:
- Sam Cooke
- Andre 3000
- Depeche Mode
- Kanye West
- Lil Boosie
- Amy Winehouse
- Daft Punk