At the Chicago stop on his Smile! You’re On Camera tour, Vince Staples reinforced what we already knew: Get the fuck off his dick, he’s going to do what he wants.
The Long Beach-born rapper, now known as much for his no b.s. interview responses and acerbic Twitter barbs as he is for his music, performed in front of a stage-width screen with cameras pointed at the audience, a play on both the constantly evolving dynamics of how audiences receive live shows (both Staples’ and more generally), as well as America’s all-seeing surveillance state.
Staples played cuts from across his catalog, sparing little time for banter, save for semi-regular check-ins to make sure the nearly sold-out crowd was still with him. Maybe the most notable characteristic of a Vince Staple show is its pace; broadly speaking, maxed out, arena-sized American rap tours focus almost entirely on production, letting the crowd do the work in terms of the actual performance. See: the most recent Drake/Migos, Travis Scott, and Future tours, for instance. It’s something akin to karaoke: play the hits, play them loud, string the hyphy tracks together, never really let off the gas. And don’t forget the floating Ferrari.
But Staples abstains from this mold, choosing instead to showcase his mastery of pace in spite of what, perhaps, his audiences expect of him or Rap Shows or both. Several tracks off 2017’s Big Fish Theory, which the rapper has said “deserved a Grammy,” veer into a slower tempo territory, like “745.”
There is a perceived disconnect between what crowds going to see Ramona Park’s finest want - constant bangers like “BagBak” and the barnburner “Blue Suede,” both of which appeared in the later middle portion of the 21 track set - and what Staples actually delivers. It’s this intent and ownership of both himself and his music that distinguishes him from his peers.
The night closed on a reflective note, as Staples played the entirety of Mac Miller’s Tiny Desk Concert on the giant screen. Miller, a close friend of Staples’, died in September.
Vince Staples’ latest record, FM!, was released in 2018.
JPEGMAFIA, a still-emerging star but one who is already popular wherever the “underground” exists now, opened the show. The Baltimore rapper’s latest is 2018’s Veteran.