The Riv // Chicago, IL // March 12, 2019
A rapper who needs no introduction needs no bells and whistles.
If you’ve ever been to a hip hop show, you know that there can be a ton of people onstage with a rapper. There’s the DJ, the hype man (or hype men), the photographer/videographer who’s 6 inches from the rapper’s face, and the crew who stands to the side with their phones out. It can make the whole show feel too busy, and for me, it can make it feel less special. For Vince Staples‘ Chicago show, however, there was nobody onstage with him. It was just Staples, the mic, and a pretty compelling video feed.
The 25-year old rapper (who bears no relation to the iconic Mavis Staples) has three studio albums under his belt, including his 2018 banger FM!. He often chooses to rap with few or no guest stars, writing all of his lyrics and making sure the beats match the vibe. FM! made dozens of lists for top albums of 2018, further cementing Staples’ place in hip hop. Forgoing autotune and any altering of his voice, Staples instead relies on sharp enunciation and his signature vocals to get his point across. It works perfectly. For this tour, aptly titled Smile You’re on Camera, JPEGMAFIA has been opening for Staples and bringing the crowd’s energy way up. Watching most of his show from the balcony, I could see the crowd starting a mosh pit and running in a circle for a lot of JPEGMAFIA’s set. I love punk energy at a hip hop show.
Staples’ stage setup intrigued me. Aside from the dramatic lighting and smoke machines, there was a full video screen behind him with various technicolor images and emergency broadcast signals. In the pit, Staples’ videographer followed his every move, which was then projected in an edited, static haze on the screen behind him. It really gave you the feeling that Big Brother was watching him. Staples played songs from all three of his studio albums, including the first track from FM!, “Feels Like Summer”. The crowd shouted along to every song, eating up Staples’ entire set.
The end of his show was so powerful, and it didn’t even involve Staples’ music. As Staples left the stage, the screen went dark and began playing Mac Millers’ NPR Tiny Desk concert. The crowd immediately fell silent and watched the entire performance, screaming and cheering when appropriate. Miller, who tragically passed away in September 2018, influenced countless artists and fans, including Staples. The tribute to Miller was a selfless and powerful way to end his set, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Vince Staples is currently on the West Coast for several shows and will be at Governor’s Ball in June. For tickets and info, click HERE.