EDITORIAL – Long Beach-bred MC Vince Staples never minces his words on Twitter and so it goes for his latest rap proclamation.
As the world anticipated whether 50 Cent would accept T.I.’s challenge to a Verzuz battle, Staples lashed out against fans claiming the Trap Muzik inventor didn’t have a fighting chance.
“Y’all just be talking to fit in T.I. got a plethora of bangers,” he tweeted on Wednesday (July 9). “Atlanta got the best rappers ever and it’s not even close.”
It didn’t take long for T.I. (who has been super active on social media this year) to take the quote and use it for more ammunition to get a Verzuz battle with
50 Cent JAY-Z.
“Now Cuzz Gets it…..He know somn….. @vincestaples,” T.I. captioned the photo while adding the famous André 3000 catchphrase, “#SouthGotSomethingToSay.”
Yet, Staples wasn’t done there.
“It’s ten billion rappers from Atlanta and they all got a classic song and unique outfits. They probably got more outfits than they got songs,” he continued his thoughts on the subject in subsequent tweets. “Young Dro got more wordplay than a lot of niggas from everywhere and he not even brought up as a top Atlanta rapper. If we doing states California up there but as a city Atlanta got way too many niggas and way too much innovation. Atlanta got Big Gip !!!”
He also pointed to Sahbabbi’s recent trending topic-smashing Barnacles album why rap citizens need to stop sleeping on ATL as the new Hip Hop mecca.
Now Staples holds a distinction among his generation as one of the most opinionated and level-headed rappers with access to social media. The mentioning of Goodie Mob’s Big Gipp is a holster flash he knows his Hip Hop lineage tried and true. He was an influential voice during the tired changing of the guard generational gap debate that plagued the mid-10s as well.
And before dudes 15 years Staples’ senior go flying off the handle with past examples of Hip Hop they deem is better, it’s best to place yourself in front of Staple’s perspective. Born in 1993, his debut album Summertime ’06 was released in 2015 as an ode to his 13-year-old self. Through LBC’s blended ecosystem between gangbanging and gentrification, Staples was exposed to an intoxicating blend of violence, camaraderie, danger, sex and euphoria, forever changing his outlook. To get to the root of Staples’ opinion, we have to consider his soundtrack during such a wild time period of his life.
It was also the period that forever altered Atlanta’s reputation. Although the aforementioned Goodie Mob, as well as their recording relatives Outkast, were indeed able to kick down barriers and build opportunities for all native rappers and R&B artists after them with multi-platinum singles and albums, slang that stuck and eccentric fashion. New York’s foundational stance and the West Coast’s sensationalized history still forced them and the rest of the South into third-rate relevance throughout the 90s, however.
When 2006 rolled out around, the music industry was in fairly poor shape. MP3’s routinely hit the web as their CD components were being shipped to stores, making iTunes increasingly pointless. And while YouTube and streaming did exist in some capacities, they weren’t in any condition to impact record sales.
Where artists won, however, was the selling of ringtones. They did so through the power of their singles as opposed to the packaged quality of their albums the CD era was renowned for.
Which brings us to Staples’ “ten billion rappers from Atlanta and they all got a classic song” argument. Is having a song or two with longevity better than having a long career without the record placements?
The answer usually hinges on the artist.
2006 alone dawned No. 1 Billboard Top Rap albums from Atlanta’s starting 5 including T.I. (King), Jeezy (Thug Motivation 102: The Inspiration), Ludacris (Release Therapy) and Outkast (Idlewild) but none of those feats would go on to match the road paved by the unlikeliest of hitmakers in local rap quartet D4L.
Backed by the late Shawty Lo, D4L actually rocked the Billboard Hot 100 in January 2006 — months before the aforementioned legends braved the wasteland marketplace — and set a precedent audiences would adapt to well through the present day: Fans wanted to hear red-hot rap tracks, first and foremost.
“The hits took a while,” D4L frontman Fabo admitted to HipHopDX in 2016. “We had a couple of CDs we’d put out before “Laffy Taffy.” We were dealing with the other groups that were around at the time like Dem Franchise Boyz. The style got concentrated around that time and he urged us to keep going. He called from jail every day just to make sure we were on our game. When [Shawty Lo] got out, we made ‘Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me.’ He went right back and we made ‘Laffy Taffy.’ He heard it from jail and was like ‘man I don’t know about that.’ Everything worked out well. He had faith in us and it worked out.”
After D4L’s snap sound fell out of favor, Atlanta still pushed out artists such as Yung LA, Que, OJ Da Juiceman, Shop Boyz, Cash Out and OG Maco — all who may not have enjoyed the same name recognition when their hit singles were first released but the power of the music (or the template they were made from) hasn’t left the culture’s sound and the would-be one-hit wonders are now commanding the space.
The past five years has fully exemplified the city’s stronghold on rap. Whether it was a fully reunited Migos in 2016 telling the world what “Bad & Boujee” meant (and grabbing several platinum plaques in the process), Lil Baby dominating the Billboard 200 chart this year or even having a Gucci Mane for bragging rights or Killer Mike for political points — or 2 Chainz for a lavish mix of both.
If subject matter determines your measure of artist greatness, Dreamville’s fostering of both soloist J.I.D and duo Earthgang has been one to revere. Aside from being go-to mentions whenever the city’s current lyrical depth is brought up, both acts can now say they’re Grammy-nominated after a breakout 2019.
A living legend like Future ignored mumble rap criticisms during his maddening 2015-2016 run that spawned fan-favorite albumixtapes Beast Mode, 56 Nights, DS2, Purple Reign, and the Drake collaboration What a Time to Be Alive and that never prevented younger superstars (Desiigner anyone?) from completely emulating his drip for their own individual success. And if you think that the aforementioned run was his peak, just know this is the same guy who dropped back-to-back albums in 2017, effortlessly making history in the process.
In today’s Hip Hop landscape, regional identification has all but been relegated to being used as a prop for the rapper’s scope of stunting — with smatterings of love for their city and scorn for the haters threading through the song’s crux. And it’s even harder to pinpoint in the actual sound. Take four of 2020’s hottest acts: A Boogie Wit Tha Hoodie, DaBaby, Freddie Gibbs and Roddy Ricch for example. All hold distinctively different sounds yet if they all claimed Atlanta, what would honestly change about their music aside from some specific city lyrics? The Atlanta sound has infiltrated every corner of the Hip Hop map.
Is having a song or two with longevity better than having a long career without the record placements? The question may still depend on the artist’s impact but in science, the dominant allele generally takes hold of the organism’s traits. In Hip Hop, it’s obviously not that fuckin’ different.
By placing yourself in Staples’ shoes when rap got really real for him, it’s hard to disagree when his point is being made with each rap release these days.