Vince Staples’ CrowdFunding Campaign Is Doomed To Fail & That’s The Best Thing For Hip-Hop
The Hip-Hop industry is adapting to the times. A-list rappers release albums through cellphone carriers, cryptocurrency is accepted as a form of payment by artists, and the idea of a project being for sale is being challenged by some of the genre’s top earners. One of the tech trends that Rap music is still trying to make sense of is crowdfunding. This is akin to when friends entering races for charities or family raising capital to start businesses look to potential benefactors for money, but the outreach is expanded to the entirety of the digital universe. The transaction typically occurs in advance, as part of an online pledge-drive. Because of this tactic, sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Patreon are now part of the mainstream lexicon for Generation DIY.
In Hip-Hop, crowdfunding has witnessed varying degrees of success. Most notably, De La Soul sought $110,000 back in 2015 to record and release and the Anonymous Nobody…. Rewarding donors with gifts ranging from going shopping with De La members to personal items from their memorabilia collections, the fans responded. In mere days, the trio received over six times their ask, in the second-highest music crowdfunding campaign in history. They then went on to make a Grammy-nominated, chart-topping album in 2016 with the money raised. After years battling with labels, De La teamed with the fans to make a statement of loyalty, ownership, and trust between Hip-Hop Heads and the artists they value.
Erick Sermon garnered a similar sentiment this year, reaching his $60,000 goal to complete his upcoming Vernia LP, in the closing hours of his campaign. On the other hand, not all crowd-sourcing has a glorious outcome. In 2015, the Geto Boys failed to raise $100,000 for their own comeback album. Only raising $46,000, Scarface stated that he was turning the page on all future G.B. album plans. In his eyes, the fans had spoken and times had changed. Other artists have fallen short of their asks in the public eye, upsetting those that pledged while making themselves susceptible to the jeer-leaders in the online peanut galleries. Elzhi faced a lawsuit from his fan-base when he raised his requested $25,000 to make an album, and then never did. Examine the comments to many Elzhi posts on social media, and the Detroit MC seems to hear about it. People felt cheated. Despite its good, crowdfunding can also, at times, feel unreliable, appear pathetic, and create unforeseen drama.
Enter Vince Staples. Signed by No I.D., the Artium/Def Jam Records artist is a creative leader in Rap’s current school. Last year’s Big Fish Theory broke the Top 20 while pulling in strong critical praise beyond meat-and-potatoes Rap fans. Last month, the Long Beach, California MC appeared on the #1-charting Black Panther soundtrack. “Oops” welcomes Kendrick Lamar into Staples’ angsty and Electronic musical chamber, presumably because K-Dot wanted to experience it. Unlike others, Staples, seemingly, has had no problem getting music to the masses and does not need our help, in that regard.
Instead, today (March 7), Vince created a GoFundMe campaign and video asking for $2 million to—as he describes it—“shut up and go away.” Putting the call to action against a trendy hash-tag, Vince campaigns for—#GTFOMD; He wants his critics to “Get The F*ck Off My D*ck.”
In a video with more than a hint of satire, Vince makes the kind of call to action common to donation-seekers on these sites:
“Hey everybody, my name is Vince.
First and foremost I hope you’re having a great day, I really do. Second, we’ve got a lot of complaints about our recent show performances, energy on stage, production choice; I think one person said ‘it sounds like we’re rapping on robot video game beats.’ We would like to apologize for that.
Second area, well this is third area, I guess, we would like to give you an alternative. On GoFundMe.com you can decide to donate to the cause of 2 million dollars, which will allow me to shut the f*ck up forever and you will never hear from me again. No songs, no interviews, no anything. If not, you can choose to let me do what the f*ck I want to do, when I want to do it. Get off of my d*ck, or fund my lifestyle. The choice is yours. Either way we appreciate you.” – Vince Staples
Vince Staples vows that he will use the money to move to Palmdale, California, buy a Honda, purchase a “year supply of soups for the homies locked down,” and get a puppy. In whole, Vince promises to go away if the goal is met. He will no longer be there to annoy the fickle Rap fan, or land in some ephemeral social media tiff because of a comment made in passing during an interview. As a little over $1,000—0.05% of Staples’ goal has been raised, it seems clear that, rather than truly expecting this to be his retirement fund, the artist is making a bigger statement beyond the passing of the collection plate.
Firstly, Staples seems to find the fun in the awkward relationship of artists crowdfunding. Moreover, at a time when the distance between the stage and the crowd is narrowing (thanks to social media and things like crowd-sourcing), Vince is asking for space. The influx of public hot-takes and armchair criticism is running rampant. Recent award shows ignite timelines to grow rich with fodder of people calling out every move, every word, every cause. Those once confined to entertainment can now join the circus, gaining rapid-fire public recognition with the right tinge of snark and pithy commentary. #GTFOMD makes fun of everything and everybody, including the irreverent LBC MC who created it. Vince is trolling the trolls right back, in terms that fit his brand.
Already, it works—even if the money itself is a joke. Vince Staples is succeeding because the collective music media is all talking about one of the more original twenty-something voices in the genre. For an artist who makes cohesive, personal and original bodies of work (most recently in the form of Big Fish Theory), this type of spectacle is what it takes to be heard, and considered, and maybe even get an album spin. A compelling song or a well-produced video can (and seemingly will) easily get lost in the sauce, but a rapper trolling us all is 2018 front-page news. Things apart from music have helped skyrocket playlist-Rap stars like Kodak Black, XXXtentacion, and Tekashi 6ix9ine gain awareness. The music was always there, but you discovered them (or the person next to you at a concert discovered them) because of the spectacle. This is akin to the imprisoned rapper in the 2000s, and the too-raw-for-TV rapper in the ’90s. Why shouldn’t Vince do it his way? He does it while getting in the last word with the social cheap-seats that think his beat selection is trash and don’t understand the irony in his interviews.
Social media and a changing Rap space have played a hand in Vince Staples’ career. In 2015, when a well-done Time magazine video positioned Vince as a millennial MC candidly questioning the importance of ‘90s Hip-Hop compared to that of the Aughts, N.O.R.E. was not alone in a responsive backlash. Staples has been unfairly lumped in with other rappers of his generation, though he has proven himself to be unlike anyone else. Though he is an admitted gang member, he has spoken out against the marketing of gang culture in certain types of Rap music. While others have glorified the use of opiates and other drugs, Vince has bemoaned the glorification of cocaine in the culture.
In 2013, fellow Los Angeles MC, Nipsey Hussle, became a status symbol and created a referendum on his type of Rap when he charged $100 for Crenshaw–a mixtape that he also gave away for free–especially in the last days of the format. Now, Vince asks his nameless, faceless haters to put their money where their mouth is. If not, it is they who can shut the f*ck up. And, while 50 Cent never kept his promise to retire when he essentially used 2007 methods to crowd-source Curtis sales against Kanye West’s Graduation, Vince Staples just might be the type of guy crazy (or committed) enough not to renege. Pop culture or Palmdale. We decide.