Long Beach Rapper Vince Staples Breathes New Life Into An Already Saturated Market Vince Staples Lets His Cynicism Run Wild With Original Instrumentals And A Trademark Gangsta Flow
TORONTO, ON, CA- Vince Staples wears his heart on his sleeve. Anyone who listens to the 25 year old rapper can attest to that. A childhood fraught with poverty and gang life, much of Staples‘s discography touches on his past and how it has shaped him into the person he is today. This rings especially true in his debut EP titled Hell Can Wait. Not only is the cover art highly suggestive, but tracks like “Blue Suede” paint a more vivid picture. Staples observes how many in his childhood community only recognize fame and fortune instead of actual character, and how street violence is just another “day in the life”. Instead of crafting happy-go-lucky tracks to fulfill the status quo of a money making song without context, much of Staples‘s music uses original instrumentation (influenced by collectives such as N.W.A and Wu-Tang Clan) and reality-based lyrics to bring his art to life. This was no better displayed than at Staples‘s show in Toronto at Rebel on his “Smile, You’re On Camera” tour across North America.
After an explosive opening by .JPEGMafia, many were understandably hyped for Staples to make his appearance. Announcing his arrival through the usage of retro-inspired visuals on the LED panels in the background, Staples appeared through the smoke emanating around him (much like an action movie where the hero finally surfaces to save the day). Opening with “Feels like Summer” from his recently released third LP FM!, the aesthetic of his tour became apparent to me almost immediately. With a tour name like Smile, You’re On Camera, I liked how the stage visuals represented this by reflecting Staples and the crowd on the screen behind the performer.
Staples‘s latest endeavor, F.M. has further showcased his knack for the brutally honest and ingenious inflection into the “faux gangsta” mentality many rappers seem to deploy today that he is ever so eager to poke fun at. The inclusion of having each song transition as if someone is dialing a radio over to the next channel is also interesting as well, considering Staples seems to be parodying the mainstream tropes of pop culture.
Staples then went on to squeeze one of my personal favorites early into his set, “Street Punks”. The track originates from Staples‘s debut album titled Summertime ’06. An almost biographical rap that details instances of his time on the streets, Staples recites how the only way to survive the gang violence that surrounded him was to fight fire with fire and transition into becoming a “Street Punk”. A track that has a catchy chorus that compliments his flow, I easily saw how many believe Staples is putting the “gangsta” back into gangsta rap. Going on to play a great mix of songs from his entire line of work, “Get the Fuck Off My Dick” was the best track Staples played that night in my opinion. An airy piano starts off the song which is then followed by Staples plainly telling an unknown person to “Get the Fuck Off [His] Dick”. Hidden behind the song title, the real meaning behind Staples‘s 3 minute banger is quite simple: if you’re here to take advantage and use him for his newfound fame, you better fuck right off.
To close his 20 song set list, the Long Beach rapper paid a touching tribute to the late Mac Miller. Showcasing one of Miller’s performances on the screen behind him, Staples left the crowd with an emotional send off to close out the night. A fellow artist recognizing another artist’s work is always great to see, especially when both have been so influential in their genre i.e. Mac Miller, Vince Staples. It just goes to show that underneath all the cynicism, trolling, and general rough edges of Vince Staples‘s persona, lies a passionate artist who cares not only about his craft but the community and culture that surrounds it.