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REVOLT Summit in L.A. kicked off its opening day with an insightful dialogue between host Sean “Diddy” Combs and Long Beach rapper Vince Staples. The fireside chat was an interview format where Diddy led the conversation with questions for the “Norf Norf” MC to candidly answer.
The session started off with Diddy coming to the stage dipped in a blue and white Crenshaw T-shirt from The Marathon Store. After he explained that the intention behind the REVOLT Summit was to network and learn about the “power of hip hop,” he treated the audience to a screening of the first episode of The Vince Staples Show, a comedy web series starring the rapper, directed by Calmatic, to get the crowd warmed up. Diddy introduced Staples as “a living legend” due to the young artist’s outspoken nature and talent.
”Who is Vince Staples?” was the mogul’s first question. The answer took the rapper down memory lane to when he started making music around the age of 16, as a way to get away from other more dangerous activities. He elaborated on his mother’s roots in the community of Compton, and how he moved back and forth to the LBC when his father got out of jail. The youngest of four children, Staples got introduced to hip hop as a juvenile when a mutual friend brought him to the house of Sid from The Internet around the time Odd Future was forming. When he learned he could make $500 a month as an artist, he decided to pursue music.
Diddy mentioned that some of his early influences included Curtis Matfield, Marvin Gaye, and Barry White prior to hip hop, and shared that at an early age, he aspired to be a pro football player until he broke his leg during camp. When asked who influenced him, Staples listed Game, Glasses Malone, Jay Rock, and Blu among others as some of the musicians that impacted his Southern California style. Early in his career, TDE rapper Ab-Soul even taught him how to record at Mac Miller’s house.
When the conversation shifted to hip hop and the state of the culture, Staples seemed optimistic about the vibes coming out of the West Coast. He name-dropped a slew of L.A. rappers including Roddy Ricch, who performed the next day, as reasons why he’s confident in the state of the culture as far as L.A. are concerned. He did say that with the internet and social media, it is easy to be overwhelmed. So, he focuses on his region and the originality of the local black culture to stay motivated.
In respect to issues like police brutality, Diddy asked Staples how he feels living as a black man in America. His reply was that the number of videos of police shootings comes as no surprise to him and his community, who have been desensitized to that sort of violence. However, the fact that these recordings are showing the world what goes on in the hood, they are doing a lot to open other people’s eyes to what black people suffer from.
To put it in perspective, Staples thinks it won’t ever be as bad as it was during the days of slavery. So, the current situation, while unpleasant, is a far cry from the violence endured by our ancestors. The key takeaway was that it is important “to take charge of ourselves and our communities and not live in fear... and be able to stand up for something — to die for something — instead of just waiting for it to happen to us.”
Midway through the fireside chat, Diddy gifted Staples with a six-pack of Killer Mike’s Crip Cola and exchanged one for a Blood’s Hard Iced Tea. They turned to the subject of Ray J, a native of Carson, as one of the top five influencers of popular culture, and Staples brought receipts including Ray’s history as an R&B singer turned investor and reality star mogul.
On the topic of social media, Staples had one word for it, “Thirsty.” On the bright side, he did highlight the merits of people being able to build a platform for themselves using social media by referencing Trap Kitchen as an example. Overall, his advice was to get your hustle on, but to also “put them phones down and go outside.”
Gang culture is deep-rooted in L.A. and Staples emphasized that this truth isn’t necessarily negative. He pointed out the racist zoning laws and real estate practices of previous generations, and how those led to people forming gangs in their neighborhoods. On the other hand, Hispanic gangs have been in the area for over a hundred years and they were formed to protect their families. Gangs have become a part of how cities like L.A. and Chicago are structured. So, it’s time to normalize the culture and stop criminalizing it by default.
Diddy shared that his hip hop moment of realization was when he saw Run DMC at Madison Square Garden, and Rev Run held up his Adidas shoe and so did thousands of other audience members. The tables turned and Staples asked Diddy where he would like to see youth invest resources. Combs answered, “Taking self-accountability... for us as a community to understand that we’re family... We’re sent here from God and it’s time to start acting like it.”