For a long time, Vince Staples was comfortable playing the background. The Long Beach native grew up the youngest in a four-child household, a voracious reader and impressive athlete (he played football, basketball, and baseball). The notion of a career in music never crossed his mind until, as a new artist in the periphery of Odd Future’s massive early success, fans started pestering him on Twitter. Just a few short years later, the 24-year-old is now one of rap’s most magnetic personalities, and is at the forefront of some of its most exciting creative trends.

Since first gaining notoriety with his mixtape Shyne Coldchain, Vince has projected a reserved, deadly focused energy. His earliest raps were no nonsense and no frills. As his writing developed to include more vivid details of his personal life and surroundings—and to show off what were quickly becoming some dazzling technical skills—he kept that tunnel vision, making his music as bulletproof as possible.

As it turned out, Vince was holding a winning hand. Signing to Def Jam and studying under the legendary Chicago producer No I.D., Vince made waves with his 2015 debut album, the double-disc Summertime ‘06. This summer, he followed up that project with an ambitious sophomore LP, Big Fish Theory, which blended a socio-politically,engaged writing style with some of the most interesting production in rap today. But even as he’s stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight, Vince Staples and his music have remained firmly rooted in sunny California.