‘We On Now’, Warns Vince Staples At His Best

Photo: Ryan Johnson
Photo: Ryan Johnson

Vince Staples will never play the same show twice. In each of the four occasions that Vince Staples has performed within’ British Columbia limits all have been unique to the others.

Having appeared on the same 75-year-old Vogue Theatre stage just one day short of an exact year apart, Shyne Coldchain upped his game this time around with an energy infused set complete with colourfully dramatic video screens formed in a semi-circle acting as a versatile backdrop. A stark contrast from having nothing for lights or set decoration a year ago, Tuesday’s night’s show was a spectacle of kaleidoscopic lights and profound media images projected behind the charismatic rapper.

In addition to the increased production budget, Staples offered up an impassioned 20 songs (¼ his catalogue) this trip through The Vogue, over just 16 (songs) a year ago.

It required only a scarce fraction of the titular track to his 2016 EP Primadonna to play over the sound system before the sold-out Vogue Theatre crowd erupted into a deafening sea of ovation. Following the self-loathing track up with 3230 from his only full-length LP Summertime ‘06, Staples (complete with a grin ) went back to his latest EP with “Smile” for the night’s third track.

Evident throughout the one-time reluctant rapper’s entire recent performance was a more seasoned confidence than we saw a year ago. Having recognised a much different swagger and energy than the Long Beach resident brought to his opening slot on the A$AP Tyler Tour four months ahead of his first Vogue Theatre show, a similar evolution in the headspace of Staples maintains from then to now.

Not that a boost in confidence for a 23-year-old rapper over the course of two years is Story Of The Year material for Time Magazine, but watching the emotional hothead react to the world from afar is a unique intrigue that has only been afforded to us through social media and technology for the last few years. Much of the new layer of confidence Staples now proudly struts with was well on its way on day four of last summer’s Pemberton Festival, the last time the Romona Park MC graced a BC Stage.  

Playing a soggy afternoon on the creatively named ‘Pemberton Stage’, even the day’s constant precipitation could do little to dampen the propensity of Staples to voice his concerns early and often.

And that may be the standout biggest difference in a Vince Staples show that one would notice pre-2017 or perhaps pre-Trump as compared to now, silence. Not once did Staples launch into a diatribe between songs. In fact, Staples barely uttered more than a couple of words between cuts on his otherwise very impressive latest show in town.

That’s not to say that Staples hasn’t found different and more conventional ways to express his current displeasure for the new regime taking up the Oval Office. Played as track 16/20 on the night “BagBak” was released just three weeks before this most recent Vancouver gig. Staples candidly expresses his distaste for the leader of the free-world on the catchy new single. Riddled with powerful lyrics Staples asserts ‘Pray the police don’t come and blow me down because of my complexion’ and ‘Go in ’til they take my bro’nem out them CDCRs (California Department of Correctional Rehabilitation). Prison system broken, racial war commotion. Until the president get ashy, Vincent won’t be votin’. We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in that Oval Office, Obama ain’t enough for me, we only getting started. The next Bill Gates can be on Section 8 up in the projects. So ’til they love my dark skin Bitch I’m goin’ all in.’ Staples then crescendos the aggressive protest song “BagBak” as he angrily states, ‘Tell the one percent to suck a dick, because we on now. Tell the government to suck a dick, because we on now. Tell the president to suck a dick, because we on now’.     

Of the four instances of Staples playing in British Columbia Tuesday’s was hands down, the best. In fact, Staples continues to put in a different but solid show whenever ‘YVR’ shows up on his itinerary. The only let-down being the first Vogue show four months after the A$AP Tyler Tour where Staples gassed out and never seemed to hit his potential. Incidentally, Staples voiced concern on March 1/2016 about having left his inhaler at the hotel; never a good idea for a person living with asthma in cannabis-liberal VanCity; especially for an individual who has never smoked, cigarettes or otherwise.  

Vince Staples is visibly maturing before our eyes both onstage and off. In the same 2017 where we teach the straight white man the value of tolerance, equal rights, and the recognition of the injustice of the marginalisation of minorities, we regard the black man like Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar as having ‘matured’ when they no longer hold a child-like naivety towards race issues. In other words, we are sending mixed messages in what should be an agreed up ideal.

When asked about the validity of white rappers just a year and a half ago Staples was quoted in Fader Magazine as saying, ‘Without the Beastie Boys, there’s no Vince Staples music,’ he added, ‘So I don’t care about some white rapper shit. My music don’t sound like traditional rap music in that sense. It’s not all black people where I live at. It’s not all white people where I live at. Colour has nothing to do with the socio-economic background. That’s a different conversation. Being in a certain social situation and being of a certain kind of class has nothing to do with what colour you are,’ a far cry from Tamikas and Shaniquas in the Oval Office before he’ll cast another vote in a federal election. In the case of King Kendrick, we witnessed the ‘maturing process’ take hold when he went from (the more ideal) “Fuck Your Ethnicity” to (a more divisive)“The Blacker The Berry”.

Vince Staples Setlist:
Primadonna

3230

Smile

Lift Me Up

Jump Off The Room

Senorita

(15 sec darkness with ocean waves)

Lemme Know

Birds and Bees

Big Time

Little Bit Of This

Smoke & Retribution

Ghost

(15 sec darkness with ocean waves)

War Ready

Surf

Hands Up

Loco

BagBak

Blue Suede

_________________________

(A minute of darkness with ocean waves)

Norf Norf

Summertime