Released mid last year, Vince Staples‘ double-album debut Summertime ‘06 was praised as a clever, vivid, and blunt entry into the long history of reality-rap coming out of L.A, fully delivering on the potential the 22 year old rapper had been showing across four mixtapes and one very well-received EP. That potential shifts well to his live show, carried by an aggressive energy with which he successfully hypes up the crowd with cuts from both Summertime ’06 and Hell Can Wait. There’s also that impression you get from his irreverent on-stage jabs that Staples finds “white people” fandom incredibly weird, particularly when it comes to hipster-embraced hip hop, a category which he has found himself in thanks to praise from websites, blogs, and magazines all over the world.
“That’s what you get for being white and having braids”, Staples says after a fan tries to throw something at him and the guards promptly eject the moronic trouble maker; moronic because the behaviour followed a general warning that anyone who throws shit on stage will catch a beatdown, with Staples already explaining that he doesn’t tolerate disrespect on that level. It’s a fair point and one which Vince makes in a reasonable, rational way, rather than tensing up to his fans and throwing the love back in their faces. It’s a similar statement to which he made with his music video for “Senorita”, portraying “white people” as those who still don’t really get it when it comes to hip hop, viewing it as mere entertainment and downplaying the seriousness of their art, their time, and their personal space. Australia has seen it, for example, when a fan tried to run up on Earl Sweatshirt at a concert, only to attempt a hug and get punched in the face and from the stage at Max Watts Sydney, it seemed like Vince could see it too.
Regardless, Vince Staples gave us a tremendous show, delivering a set list that would satisfy any fan, pushing the cuts out with the tough energy of trap music but the wit and laid-back sound of Long Beach. But first, we were given a support act to set the tone for the night and what a support act it turned out to be.
Local emcee B Wise has the charm and timing down pat when it comes to his live shows, strutting around stage like a rap vet with confidence and presence, with the skills to match. The clarity with which he raps and the rhythm that sparks when verse meets beat easily won the crowd over, instantly in fact. The hard-to-win audience turned into a wall-to-wall venue of fans, cheering and quickly learning the hooks of every track so they could get involved. It’s always incredible to see a local support act who walks out on stage to a few cheers only to leave that very same stage as if it was a heroes welcome, with closing tracks “Lately” and “Prince Akeem” drawing the biggest responses.
With DJ Klasik controlling the flow of things behind him, B Wise proved himself on each track, pumping out a sound that’s on-trend but distinctive enough to be remembered. “Who is this guy? He’s actually really fucking good”, I heard someone to my left say as he wrapped up his closing track, leaving Klasik to bump out “White Iversion” (Post Malone) and “Antidote” (Travis Scott) to keep the crowd’s obvious love for that turn-up style of hip hop going.
It wasn’t too long before a bright green smoke swirled around the stage to cue in Vince Staples, the emcee launching straight into the head-nodding “Lift Me Up”, which quickly turned into one of his best to date, “65 Hunnid”. Most tracks are cut short by a gunshot before Vince check in with the crowd, but none are as short and frustrating as the medley-style many rappers of similar ilk employ when heading here for a live show. Instead, Staples knows exactly how much the crowd needs, and when they need it, pushing out each cut with force.
He shouts out George Clooney at one point, shouts down Dr Who (who apparently looks like police) at another and admonishes the crowd for clapping and cheering when he tells us about how he once robbed one of the writers from Rap Genius. “Don’t clap…don’t steal from people”, he says, again speaking to the strange fandom that comes from a crowd that, like me, can never fully understand the context of rappers who grew up in completely different circumstances to us. Between songs, Staples mixes humour with what seems like a genuine bewilderment.
Of course, “Norf Norf” and “Senorita” were saved for towards the end of the set, being two of the biggest fan favourites, the latter especially turning the crowd into a sea of flailing limbs and flying elbows, a scene even more intense for the one-scong encore of “Blue Suede”.
Lift Me Up
Birds & Bees
Hang N’ Bang
Jump off the Roof