Stormzy and Vince Staples on working on new music and writing scripts

Stormzy and Vince Staples on working on new music and writing scripts

During a shares Q&A in London, Stormzy has revealed that he’s “just been creating” for the past two years, while Vince Staples has spoken of his foray into television.

West Coast rap met UK grime on Monday (June 10) when Stormzy and Vince Staples came together in conversation, compèred by former NME Awards host Julie Adenuga, at London’s Ham Yard Theatre. The invite-only event saw them discuss new music, staying grounded and Stormzy’s love of Glastonbury.

Long Beach native Staples was in the capital as part of his UK and European tour in support of recent album ‘Dark Times’, which was released last month, before he played a show at London’s Roundhouse. Stormzy, meanwhile, revealed to Adenuga that he’s been producing new material, but shied away saying he’s at work on an album.

“Since the last album [2022’s ‘This Is What I Mean’],” he said, “this has been the first time in my whole career where I’ve just made music without thinking, ‘Oh, I’m making an album’. For the past three albums, and even before that, music was a very clinical thing for me.

“You know when artists say, ‘I gotta go studio and get this off my chest’? I never related to that. I thought: ‘I’m alright – I talk to one of the mandem [laughs].’ Studio, for me, and making music was extremely intentional. It was always very album-focused. For the past two years, I’ve just been creating.”

Stormzy performs at All Points East Festival 2023 at Victoria Park on August 18, 2023 in London, England (CREDIT: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Staples, meanwhile, explained that he sees little separation between making music and working on his Netflix comedy series The Vince Staples Show: “I don’t, like, produce. I can barely use a computer, to be honest. It’s just words, so [that’s] communicating with people, whether you’re having a meeting or writing a script or writing a song. It’s not really different to me… I got tricks that I did in music 10 years ago that I put in the show.”

The artists also reflected on how their teams have helped them to achieve success. “I always say it takes a village,” said Stormzy. “Sometimes that village is one person; sometimes it’s 100 people. I have an amazing village. I always thank God ‘cause my village is very family… I’ve been blessed that the people who are the best at their jobs also ended up being people who I love. I don’t know how to give you the advice to do that. Pray! Pray to God.

“I’m a pleasure to work with a nightmare to work with at the same time. I’m both things. I think a lot of creatives are.”

Vince Staples. Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Meanwhile, Staples also credited his manager Corey Smyth, who once bailed him out of jail so that the rapper could attend Lollapalooza festival (“I was innocent,” Staples clarified). Symth also baulked when Staples was offered poor advice by a US music industry insider: “This dude told me to grow my hair like Snoop Dogg because I was from Long Beach.”

Asked what nicest thing anyone had ever done for him was, Staples replied, “Mac Miller gave me an album for free when I was a troublesome teenager,” seeming to refer to their joint 2013 mixtape ‘Stolen Youth’, which the late Miller produced under the alias Larry Fisherman.

He emphasised, too, the importance of perseverance: “Everyone pretends they were good at the beginning and shit, but [I] was pretty trash for, like, five or six, seven years.” And he remained humble in the face of success: “It’s an easy job, this, to be honest. It’s kinda bullshit, you know, to be able to wake up every day and make a song or something like that, and then you get paid for it.”

When Adenuga asked Staples how he stays so connected to his disadvantaged background, he replied: “Some people are like that and some people aren’t. It’s important to be true to yourself and make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle of a lot of things… I appreciate the people that come from where I come from. I think we’re good enough.

“I don’t have this, like, ‘get out of the ‘hood’ complex. That’s just not something I personally believe in. When you have self-interest and you’re invested in yourself, it automatically trickles down into your family and your friends and that ends up being your community.”

Staples added: “If you have insight, or just a voice that you can lend to something, why not do it? Also! Everybody’s fuckin’ famous. We got TikTok and shit, so it’s not worth as much as it used to be. So I think while you have the experience, utilise it for someone other than yourself.”

Stormzy, wearing a stab vest designed by the artist Banksy, performs on the Pyramid Stage at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty
Stormzy, wearing a stab vest designed by the artist Banksy, performs on the Pyramid Stage at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty

Both artists are polymaths whose reach has extended beyond music – Staples via his aforementioned TV show and Stormzy through his multi-faceted #Merky Foundation, which funds scholarships for Black students at the University of Cambridge. The London rapper is also an ardent theatre-goer and said he would like to work in that medium one day, though admitted it’s an amorphous idea at the moment.

“I don’t know whether I would wanna write,” he explained. “Maturity is knowing that all these things you wanna do, they’re not walks in the park. It’s not just like: ‘Yeah, I’ll just do theatre.’ That’s almost a piss take… Not to demotivate anyone from doing music, but people think: ‘Yeah, I’ll just do music.’ And it’s like: ‘Of course you can just do it, but it requires hard work… Any new venture I would wanna do it with respect.”

This led Staples to offer advice to budding screenwriters: “When you format a script, [the studio has] to be able to tell how much things are gonna cost. If you don’t reach their benchmarks, they’re not gonna read your story.”

He added: “If you can deliver them a show that’s unique but they know they’re gonna make their money back, you get more opportunities… You have semi-successful shows that a lot of people watch, but they cost $100m, so once you don’t have the money for a $100m dollar show, you get cancelled.”

Before the evening wrapped up, Stormzy spoke of his love of Glastonbury, which continued after his ground-breaking headline performance in 2019. “When you leave here,” he laughed, “type in ‘Stormzy falling down’ on any platform – TikTok, YouTube – and you will see me having a good time at Glasto. I’ve been back two years in a row; we’re gonna go back third year in a row.

“Since I performed, every year we go there, me and all the mandem, we just have a drink and we fall over. That’s your night-time entertainment!”

Vince Staples
Vince Staples CREDIT: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Staples’ UK tour continues with shows at Manchester’s O2 Ritz tonight (Wednesday June 12) and Birmingham O2 Institute tomorrow (Thursday June 13). Visit here for tickets and more information.

Stormzy meanwhile, recently joined forces with Adidas to announce a new centre for music, football and gaming called #MerkyFC HQ.

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