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Who’s That Guy? Vince Staples, Who Gave Us the Song Summer 2014 Deserved...

Stashed in: Music Videos!, Music, Racism, Societal Woes, Rap, Grantland!

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Monday night, rapper Vince Staples released “Hands Up,” the best musical response to Ferguson yet — he claims it isn’t, but the context is hard to deny. The song creates a riveting sonic dystopia with omnipresent police sirens while presenting a righteously angry and clear-eyed front against police brutality, but it isn’t even the best song Staples has released in the past month. That would be “Blue Suede,” a thundering, unflinching take on the loss of innocence to gang life backed by an alien hiss reminiscent of Public Enemy. Both tracks are singles off Staples’s forthcoming Hell Can Wait EP (set for a September 23 release), and taken together they suggest his career, like the kettle on “Rebel Without a Pause,” is ready to blow. And that raises the question: Who the hell is Vince Staples?

Where Have I Heard Him Before? You probably caught him on an Earl Sweatshirt track. Staples’s verses have been a highlight of Earl’s projects since “epaR,” the peak of the Earl tape’s nightmarish storytelling. Both rappers have started to move past the shock and expectations associated with Odd Future, but it’s tough to deny the initial power of Staples’s vivid, lurid rhymes or their appeal to the intended audience. As one of the only featured artists on Earl’s short mixtape, Staples’s profile benefited from its proximity to the “Free Earl” mystique. And once Earl returned from Samoa, Staples made a few memorable appearances on his full-length debut, Doris, including a verse on “Hive” that comes close to stealing the album.

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