Vince Staples has only lived for a quarter of a century, but he’s already cemented his place as a cultural commentator along with his formidable musical contributions. Given that many artists of his generation rely heavily on alcohol and drugs to create and cope, Staples shared a perspective of living sober that was largely centered on survival.
GQ profiled a handful of musicians of varying eras and genres who have struggled with drug and alcohol usage and are currently living clean. One of the most prominent members of this grouping of artists was Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, who said in the profile that he’s on his “fourth run” in getting clean. However, among the acts that were profiled for the piece, Staples was the one artist who has never indulged in drugs or drinking for reasons that were shaped by his tough Long Beach, Calif. upbringing.
“I am very sure that I’m gonna think different answers than Steven Tyler or anyone involved in this piece. I’ve lived a completely different life. What I’m saying is: The drug usage was the last thing on my mind. When you’re surrounded with death and dismay and poverty and all these things that happen every day, I didn’t have time to worry about using or partaking in certain things. People where I come from don’t use drugs in a recreational sense. We’re not at a party, or at the rock show, or at the rap show, doing lines in the bathroom. Where I come from, life comes day after day after day, and people use these things to cope. People use drugs as a coping mechanism, and I’ve always held that reality. Reality hurts, but so does addiction—it’s just which pain you choose.
GQ‘s The Music Issue features Frank Ocean gracing the cover and giving readers a rare inside look at his creative process.
Photo: Michael Schmelling