If you follow Vince Staples on Twitter or have watched his interviews, you’ll know that he is hilarious. In fact, if he wasn’t a rapper, I think he could still make it in the entertainment industry as a comedian.
One of my favorite examples was when he tweeted, “The national anthem don’t even slap,” in response to the controversy surrounding the NFL and Colin Kaepernick. The tweet quickly went viral.
Staples’ debut and sophomore albums, “Summertime ‘06” and “Big Fish Theory,” offered fresh perspectives on gangsta rap and challenged radio trends. He’s a vibrant storyteller, brash and unapologetic in his social criticism. He often reminds me of Dave Chappelle (with whom he actually shares a manager with).
But listening to his music and liking his tweets wasn’t enough. I knew I needed to see him in person.
Lucky for me, Staples’ “Smile, You’re on Camera” tour stopped in Fort Lauderdale this past Valentine’s Day at Revolution Live, and it was a hell of a time.
Staples’ first opening act was a new rap group from Texas called PNTHN. I walked in as the 10 members— 7 rappers, 2 producers and a DJ— piled onto the stage and started performing songs from their latest EP “Potluck.”
“It’s our first time performing in Florida. Man, Y’all live as f*ck,” said rapper Dc4Prez.
I originally thought PNTHN was an upcoming group from Broward County that I hadn’t heard about yet. Why? Some of them had cool dreads, which is seemingly a requirement for Florida rappers (think Kodak Black, Lil Pump, Robb Bank$, etc). The faces of their group were diverse, and they had a great amount of energy that made it easy for the audience to rage to their songs. They fitted right in. Though they are actually from Texas, their music reminded me of California’s weed and Florida’s sun. How could I complain?
Opening acts are supposed to warm you up for the headliner and get you pumped. Sometimes, they do more and blow you away. Lady Gaga did this when she opened for the Pussycat Dolls in 2009. The second opening act of the night, a rapper named Buddy, did that for me.
Buddy burst onto stage, hailed his hometown of Compton and got the crowd super hype as he rapped the song “That Much.” There’s something about West Coast rappers that I just really love. They’re not only charismatic and skillful in their individual styles of rapping, but they also paint a picture of their California hometown that’s as jarring and vivid as their experiences growing up in it.
Buddy painted that picture on “Trouble on Central,” one of the standout singles from his 2018 debut album “Harlan & Alondra.”
He got the crowd lit (literally) with his stoner anthem, “A Lite.” His Valentine’s Day banter was supported by his feel-good love song, “It’s Love.” We bopped our heads to “Hey Up There” with Ty Dolla $ign singing the hook. Buddy sang, rapped, engaged and entertained. After his set, I found myself wanting to hear more from him, but the West Coast fun wasn’t done. Vince Staples was up next.
Staples isn’t the typical gangsta rapper. As he performed “FUN,” the hit single off of his latest album “FM!,” it became evident that this was an experimental project. “FUN” sounded like it could be something you hear on the radio or at an EDM concert, but lines like “My black is beautiful, but I’ll still shoot at you,” reminded me that Staples’ life in Long Beach isn’t anything to take lightly.
Staples performed classics such as “Blue Suede” and singles off his 2017 album “Big Fish Theory,” the latter of which caused a mosh pit to form in the center of the stage, much to Staples’ delight. But still, there was another song I was waiting to hear. As the end of the concert drew near, I looked around and could almost see the anticipation hanging in the air. They knew, and he knew too. As I heard the opening chords of “Norf Norf,” the crowd erupted, and I sighed. Finally.
I’m used to seeing a lot of different faces at rap concerts, but I have to admit that it was weird to hear a whole bunch of white folks screaming, “I ain’t never ran from nothing but the police,” knowing that most of them would never attempt such a feat. All types of people consume modern hip-hop and rap music, even groups of people who once opposed it. Staples’ music video for FUN ends with a blond-haired, white teen closing his laptop after watching the video when his mother calls for him. I find white suburbia’s consumption of rap music quite interesting, and I’m glad that Staples pokes fun at the concept.
Music transcends time. Buddy brought me to the 90s with his groove and Staples’ latest album gives me 2003 nightclub feels. It transcends space too. In the span of a couple hours, I spent a little time in Texas and indulged in the West Coast all without leaving Florida. Thank you Vince Staples, you absolute genius.