There once was a list, written by a writer who I am fearful hasn’t been to Southern California, let alone Long Beach. He tried to give a tour of places mentioned in Vince Staples lyrics, and he couldn’t have gotten Vince’s references—or our city—more wrong.
With Vince fresh off a performance in his hometown at ComplexCon (on top of just releasing the rapid-fire 20-minute album FM!, then announcing this week that Poppy Street Sinners will be dropping in January), it’s time to revisit this incomplete and mostly inaccurate list to provide a more local perspective.
For starters, locals would know that the places Vince Staples discusses are real. They’re not made up, not tourist spots, Instagrammable landmarks, or places to peer at through a screen as if they were part of a museum exhibit of some far off culture. They are the actual physical places that defined what was ultimately a complicated, violent, racism-filled, character-building-but-confusing childhood for the talented 25-year-old MC.
In fact, Vince himself pokes fun at this notion in his video for “Fun!” off of FM!: Using Google mapping-style shots that jump along 65th Street, the final shot shows a white kid (presumably as unfamiliar with North Long Beach as the aforementioned list writer) Google mapping Staples’ neighborhood from the safety of his suburban bedroom. In other words, another vain attempt by a far-off hip hop fan to pry into the culture of North Long Beach without actually stepping into the neighborhood or experiencing it.
In addition to his lyrical and melodic abilities, Staples is a cultural commentator like no other, a quiet observer and “urban ethnographer” (in the words of Long Beach Post editor Sarah Bennett).
Below is the complete, locals-only break down of his ethnographic insights: a comprehensive list of all the places (streets, schools, burger spots) lyrically dropped by Vince Staples so far.
The neighborhood where Staples was raised, Ramona Park in North Long Beach, sits in the shadow of an oil refinery just below the 91 Freeway and is a continual theme throughout his music. “I’m here to tell the world I’m from Ramona Park,” he raps in the first line of “Outro” on Stolen Youth, an early mixtape from 2013.
The instrumental intro to his Def Jam debut, Summertime ’06, is even named “Ramona Park Legend, Pt. 1” while the subsequent Pt. 2, featuring Earl Sweatshirt, is mid-album. His 2017 album, Big Fish Theory, also has a track called “Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium.” The Yankee reference harkens to Staples’ days as a member of the Naughty Nasty Gangsta Crips (2NGC) crew, a gang that wore Yankee hats and started on Obispo Avenue between Artesia Boulevard and Poppy Street (see below).
I’m here to tell the world I’m from Ramona Park/
Diving in the deep water like I know the sharks…
We Crippin’, Long Beach City, pay a visit
Park Ramona, Pop block the corner/
Givin’ hell ’til it’s frozen over, I ain’t never ran from nothin’…
I shot your child, so what, you know we wildin’ after dark/
The sun come down and guns come out, you know Ramona Park…
Ramona, I was round that corner/
Still down, I’m a Norf Norf soldier…
I’m from Ramona, no school diploma/
We caught him slippin’, he in a coma…
Staples lived at 3230 Poppy St., a street of modest homes that runs east-west through the neighborhood of Ramona Park.
At apartments we used to loot, them Poppy niggas’ll shoot/
Homies taught me 2N’s ain’t need no friends…
Niggas die off of Poppy street/
Bet my mama vouch, they drive by/
We don’t run inside, bitch, we shoot it out..
Man, I breathe in, bleed this, Poppy Street—I shot them guns ’cause talk is cheap/
Bow your head and pray, okay, now walk wit’ me…
How I’m Crippin’ where I’m livin’, come and follow me/
Pistol poppin’, Poppy Street (Poppy Street)…
3230 Poppy St, we ain’t chasin’, they brought the beef/
Used to the sounds of violence, my neighbors ain’t never call police…
Where’s your moxie? Ain’t you from Poppy?/
Young man, you not actin’ too cocky…
Where’s your moxie? Ain’t you from Poppy?/
Young man, you not actin’ too cocky…
One block below the 91 Freeway, along the northernmost edge of Long Beach, Artesia is an essential corridor for Norfsiders, connecting Long Beach to Compton on the west and Bellflower to the east.
Riding down 7th Street, looking for your second son/
Found him on Artesia with a Yankee hat and loaded gun…
Fuck ya dead homies, run ya bread homie/
Got some lead for me, I’m on Artesia…
Gun squeezin’, I’m a real Artesian…
Cornonado Avenue in Ramona Park
Coronado Avenue is a street in Ramona Park that intersects with Poppy Street and runs parallel to Obispo Avenue.
Been to hell and church and back, all in Granny’s Cadillac/
Matter fact she had that El Dorado parked on Coronado…
You ain’t never caught a body, know it cause you talkin’ ’bout it/
Catch me off of Coronado…
Market Street in North Long Beach
Got this bitch that live off of Market that’s down to hold the heat/
Turnin’ water and power off, got us impatient, powered up…
91 Freeway in North Long Beach
I’m tryna to have a good time this evening/
91 Freeway, eastbound, speedin’/
Late night but the face right, I need it…
710 Freeway through Long Beach
Could’ve been a bum, broke sleeping by the 710/
17 dropped out, knew I had to make a way…
Downey Avenue in Ramona Park
Here’s how Rap Genius breaks down Staples’ use of Downey Avenue: “Downey Ave. was just a stones throw away from Vince’s home, a place where “niggas never had a shot unless you talking .38,” and Vince experienced death first hand.“
Man down, Downey Ave and get shaded/
Take a nigga mind off that/
We can dip, fuck in the whip, slide right back in the function…/
Route 22 on Long Beach Transit
Speaking of Downey Avenue, Long Beach Transit’s Route 22 runs north-south along Cherry Avenue and Downey Avenue in North Long Beach.
Linden Avenue in North Long Beach
Long road to the riches, bravos from the bitches/
Coulda been a felon selling nickels off of Linden…
Orizaba Avenue in North Long Beach
Under where they took us undercovers parked on Orizaba/
Dogs up in the yard of the abandoned where we hide the choppers…
Obispo Avenue in Ramona Park
A 2014 Benz with the low jack, Pirellis’s and the pistol stack/
Riding down Obispo Ave, thinkin’ bout the bus days/
Never goin’ back to that, checks be coming back-to-back…
When it comes to attending area high schools, Staples didn’t mess around: he attended Jordan, Mayfair, Esperanza and Compton High. On “Norf Norf,” he boasts that a “real Norfside nigga never went to Poly, Wilson or Cabrillo.”
Poly High School
Wilson High School
Turned a couple Wilson High gangs to the track meet/
You be in to rap beef cause you ain’t never have beef…
Jordan High School
Long Beach legend, Jordan kick me out/
If you from the city, that should tell you what I’m really ’bout…
Football was cornerback, never made a game I played for Compton High/
But my daddy was the man that would be suicide/
Picked me up from visitation in the newest ride…
Douglas Burger in North Long Beach
Like Louis Burger mentioned below, Douglas Burger has two locations in Long Beach—and the one Staples is likely referring to sits on Cherry Avenue just a few blocks from his old house on Poppy (with some of the best chili cheese fries in the city, only second to Louis Burger).
And for those that think they know what Staples is talking about? Vince himself cleared that up in a response to a forum post quibbling about the reference: “People don’t know what a fuckin’ Douglas Burger is, so they can listen to this song all they want but they don’t know what I’m talking about just because of the simple fact they don’t know where that is—they’ve never been there.”
We crabs in a bucket, he called me a crab/
So I shot at him in front of the Douglas/
I cannot be fucked with, we thuggin’ in public…
Louis Burger in Long Beach and Compton
In the hood, like a dollar sweet tea or a Louis Burger…
WinCo Foods in North Long Beach
A 24-hour grocery store in Lakewood, just south of Ramona Park.
Lil Johnny gave his life for this shit/
All he got was a plot and a bottle from the Winco…
Popeyes Louisiana Chicken in North Long Beach
While there are two Popeyes in North Long Beach, Staples is likely referring to the one off of Artesia, right by Ramona Park.
Northside, right by the Popeye’s, popped out/
Ran from the cops but the cops get shot now….
Long Beach Police Department
Staples loves mockin’ the PD—hell, “Norf Norf” is an entire anthem about running from the badge and being scared of nothing else. His social commentary is done with wit and when it is combined with the man’s sheer linguistic talent, he mocks everything from cops doing cocaine to racial profiling.
North Division tryin’ to stop my blackness/
I’m watchin’ for them badges when out in traffic…
LBPD, no they ain’t ’bout shit
LAPD, no they ain’t ’bout shit
LASD, no they ain’t ’bout shit
Ridin’ ’round these streets givin’ out full clips
5-0 fucking with the yayo too/
L-B-P-D get sprayed on too…