Vince Staples

Vince Staples
Westward Music Festival, Vancouver BC, September 16


photo by Sharon Steele

by Yasmine Shemesh


You couldn’t see Vince Staples at the Vogue Theatre on Saturday night. That wasn’t the point. You felt him.

Appearing as a silhouette against a glowing screen with big gusts of smoke for the entirety of the set, the North Long Beach rapper gave a cinematic performance that enchanted a throbbing and enthusiastic crowd.

The production was immersive and spectacular. The striking peach colour that served as the backdrop for the show’s majority only changed composition to smartly complement a small handful of tracks. A goldfish swam on the back walls of the theatre for “Big Fish,” from this year’s Big Fish Theory. On “745,” the room blacked out, the sound of a revving engine rumbled through the speakers, and a reel of a car racing down a road lit up on screen. Strobing and blinking stage lights played along with “Ghost,” the fierce, electronic With You. cut that features Staples.

Staples deeply understands how to tell stories not just through his words and delivery — which was consistently smooth, playful and aggressive — but also through his movements. Showing his profile, he slowly raised the microphone to his lips before blasting into “Party People,” wildly springing from one side of the stage to the other. He stood stoically, holding his microphone stand out on “Birds & Bees.” He stayed low, throwing his arms with vigour on “Norf Norf.”

It was details such as those that truly demonstrated the forward-thinking vision of Staples. He is a great rapper, yes. Undeniably so. But he’s a brilliant artist.

Published online September 2017 at Exclaim! 

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