Are encores just about the strangest tradition in music? I was thinking that last night after Vince Staples left the stage momentarily after having just brought the house down with his Future sampling banger “Señorita.” Everyone in the young-ish crowd at the Observatory in Santa Ana knew Staples was coming back and right on queue tried to awkwardly usher him to return to the stage with chants of “Vince! Vince!”
That didn’t have the right cadence and quickly died off, so the crowd audibled to “Blue Suede! Blue Suede! Blue Suede!” — the name of the 22-year-old Long Beach rappers’ signature closing song.
A tall bro who had been rocking out all night turned to me and said, “This shit is about to get fucking lit if they are chanting for the song by name!”
Staples obliged the crowd’s request, dropping the eerie synth beat to absolute pandemonium. And I can confirm, it got fucking lit.
Staples has been one of the most buzzed about rappers of 2015. He doesn’t get radio play, but his debut double album Summertime ’06 was universally hailed by critics and has made its way on just about every Best Of 2015 list. His grimy tales of life in Long Beach don’t glorify gang culture as much as matter-of-factly recount the details. He’s intelligent and sarcastic and his give no fucks approach to just about everything makes him one of the most interesting artists of the year.
Friday night was a triumphant homecoming for Staples, who recalled with his DJ West Side Ty having previously opened in the Observatory’s smaller constellation room, then graduating to the bigger room to open for more acts to having finally headlined and sold out the venue.
The rapper’s stage energy is manic and he is as demanding of his body as he is the audience. Throughout the night he was hyperly bouncing his wiry frame from each side of the stage mid-flow, and expected the crowd to be equally active. He fed off the crowd’s palatable energy, ripping through songs from his mixtape catalogue plus his EP Hell Can Wait and full-length Summertime ’06. On “65 Hunnid” he cut the beat midway through and enthusiastically finished the song a capella: queue fire emoji.
About half way through the set, Staples motioned to a shadowy figure off to the side of the stage who through him an object. It was an inhaler, which Staples had to use after telling the crowd he has asthma and needed to take it easy for a few songs, grabbing a mic stand to anchor him to the middle of the stage for the time being, taking on some more subdued tracks like “Jump Off The Roof.”
After catching his breath, Staples closed the night off with fan favorite “Norf Norf” that brought the large contingent of Long Beach locals who made the 25 mile trek to shout out their (and Vince’s) city and claim they “ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police!” The aforementioned “Señorita” followed and now we’re back where we started with the encore of “Blue Suede.”
Staples has made rumblings about getting out of the rap game sooner rather than later. As in leaving within two years. Whether he’ll follow through and hang up the mic in a year or two is unknown, but with the buzz that the young rapper has circulating around him, now is the time to experience a Vince Staples show live. A small room with every eyeball (or iPhone) entrenched on the irreverent MC is really the only way to experience everything he has to offer. Not a 3PM Coachella set come festival season.