Vince Staples On Why He Never Touched Drugs, Alcohol

By Kelly Burch 01/21/19

Staples says staying sober wasn’t really a choice but more of a survival tactic. 

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Vince Staples
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When GQ interviewed musicians about their lives in sobriety, most of them talked about their past use of drugs and alcohol and how their lives changed when they got sober. Twenty-five-year-old rapper Vince Staples, however, explained how he has never been interested in using drugs or alcohol. 

Staples said that his sobriety comes as a surprise to many people. 

“They don't expect this from a young black musician my age from where I come from,” he said. “Like, how could you end up being in the ghetto, went through this, went through that, and not experienced drugs, not experienced alcohol?”

Staples said that his father used and sold drugs, but growing up in a tough situation made him realize that substance use wasn’t something fun or glamorous. 

“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,” he said. “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. That's the reality of my situation.”

Staples said that he knows choosing sobriety without a history of substance use disorder sets him apart from others, especially musicians interviewed by the magazine. 

“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,” he said. “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.”

He said he’s not sure if his father’s substance abuse or the death of friends in high school contributed to his sobriety. 

“All I know is that it's not just one thing. Life isn't one-sided. We all have different things that we go through, and different things that we see, and these things collectively go together to make us the people that we are today,” he said. 

Although other hip-hop artists, like Future, have admitted they’re reluctant to talk about sobriety, Staples doesn’t shy away from the way that his past and his sobriety overlap. Staying sober wasn’t really a choice, he said, but more of a survival tactic. 

“I'm a hundred percent sure it played some part, but I never had time to think about whether my father's addiction issues led to me not doing drugs, because I was too busy trying to cope with the reality of people dying and people trying to kill me every day. That was really where my focus was. When you have to think about your next 15 minutes—you have to think about the walk to the store, you have to think about how you're getting to school, you have to think about the bus ride home, you have to think about how you're going to sneak a gun into the football game—the last thing I was thinking about was getting high.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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