On my radar: Vince Staples’s cultural highlights

The LA rapper and actor on the growing pains of Pen15, one-to-watch Reggie Helms Jr and escaping from it all along the Pacific Coast Highway

Vince Staples, 28, is a rapper from Compton, California. Early on in his career, he was affiliated with experimental hip-hop collective Odd Future along with artists such as Tyler the Creator, Syd and Earl Sweatshirt. In 2015, he released his debut album, Summertime ’06, followed by Big Fish Theory in 2017 and FM! in 2018. He is also an actor and has appeared in films such as Rick Famuyiwa’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Dope and in TV shows American Dad!, Insecure and Adult Swim animation Lazor Wulf. His self-titled fourth album is out now on Blacksmith/Motown/EMI Records.

1. TV

Pen15 (Sky/Now TV)

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in Pen15.
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in Pen15. Photograph: Alex Lombardi/Hulu

I’ve been getting into television writing and Calmatic, director of The Vince Staples Show, told me to watch Pen15. The two leads, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, are in their 30s but play 13-year-old versions of themselves, surrounded by actual teenagers. It gives this awkward tension to the show and makes some of the jokes a little bit more revealing – a big part of comedy is it being uncomfortable. It’s really deep while still being fun and light – there’s a lot of layers.

2. Music

Reggie Helms Jr

Reggie Helms Jr.
Reggie Helms Jr. Photograph: ℗ 2021 COLORSxSTUDIOS

As far as I know, he only has three songs – the standout for me is Southside Fade – but he doesn’t waste words; it’s about the small things such as the words, phrasing and pronunciation. At a point in time when everybody’s kind of doing the same thing, it’s good to see an artist go against the grain, doing something that has its own sound and feel. Some people say it’s reminiscent of D’Angelo, but what I think is unique are his storylines, his voicing, the melodies he uses. There is something almost gospel-like about his music and I feel like him coming from Texas plays a large part in that. I’m very interested to see what he ends up doing.

3. Online

Defunctland YouTube channel

Watch a trailer for Defunctland, season three.

During the pandemic, I would say YouTube became one of my closest friends. I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on there about theme parks – living near Disneyland kind of makes it not that special; growing up, the rides weren’t that fun, the lines were long, the people were annoying. But this channel shows the ups and downs of the theme parks, the business itself, how they have to be innovative decade after decade – it’s a lot of juggling, to stay at such a high level while trying to be creative.

4. Book

Case Study Houses: The Complete CSH Program 1945-1966

Case Study Houses: The Complete CSH Program 1945-1966.
Case Study Houses: The Complete CSH Program 1945-1966. Photograph: Taschen Books

I just recently bought my first home – my second home, but my first home for myself – and I’ve been looking at books on architecture. This one goes through different eras of homes: when they were built, who built them, how tracts used to be built, prototype homes, the idea of land. I’ve always been interested in architecture, because we were growing up in apartments where we didn’t really have the things [in these books]. The Los Angeles landscape has changed so much since the 60s, but that whole mid-century thing is still timeless.

5. Place

Pacific Coast Highway, Los Angeles

Aerial view of the Pacific Coast Highway as it runs past Leo Carrillo state park in Malibu, California.
Aerial view of the Pacific Coast Highway as it runs past Leo Carrillo state park in Malibu, California. Photograph: trekandshoot/Alamy

I’ve lived along PCH my whole life. If I have to drive through Los Angeles, Orange County or even to San Diego, I’d much rather take PCH to see nature. A lot of the time we get so trapped in city life that we forget the world around us, but California is a beautiful place - you just have to look. Driving down PCH you see the different kinds of wealth, going from what can be considered to be poverty in Long Beach to seeing Malibu or Laguna Beach. I’ve been enjoying spending time on the beach: it’s a peaceful, quiet place and you get to people-watch.

6. Film

Nomadland (dir Chloé Zhao, 2020)

Frances McDormand, left, on the set of Nomadland with director Chloé Zhao.
Frances McDormand, left, on the set of Nomadland with director Chloé Zhao. Photograph: AP

This follows the life of a nomad named Fern, played by Frances McDormand, one of the few actors in the film. The interesting aspect is the utilisation of actual nomads instead of supporting actors – it gives the film the ability to blur the line between what’s reality and what’s entertainment. That’s a very important component to music, especially from an album storyline aspect: it allows you to get lost in what’s being created rather than dissecting everything. There was a Netflix film recently that did that as well – Concrete Cowboy, about the cowboys in Philadelphia, although the real people didn’t have that many lines. But in Nomadland it was seamless – I think more people should try to do things like that.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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