ACL Live Review: Vince Staples

Cali rapper gets the mainstream woke

Vince Jamal Staples never stops clowning a crowd.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Second-Sunday-only at the American Express main stage, the 25-year-old Def Jam protégé from Long Beach, Calif., targets fist-pumping Asians, overexcited teenagers, even nerdy Carltons if they’re dressed too Phil Collins-ish. Opener “Get the Fuck Off My Dick” cast an ironic tone, Staples staring into the camera throughout the set without ever cracking a smile. Patronizing black and white fans alike with lyrics and stage dabs, he’s not trying to preach to a choir of blond cornrows, because as he noted on “Lift Me Up,” they already bought him a Ferrari.

Meanwhile, second track “Big Fish” off last year’s Big Fish Theory exploded into a Molotov cocktail of words, sweat, and mic-grabbing. Rather than his rhymes slurring into civility, they sucker-punch over a beat stark enough to soak in every word. When he raps the N word, he wants you to feel it.

Seventh in, “Homage” baited the young, white, yuppie audience to chant realities. Even so, credit the under-20 crowd for mostly keeping quiet, even when asked to yell louder. Honesty is mesmerizing when you’re not exposed to enough of it.

“3230” tells the 1% to suck a dick, landing heavy on the Trump era. Following interlude “7:45,” “Lift Me Up” ultimately defined the MC’s performance, the former Odd Future associate stating personal conflicts about “making profit” and being “Mr. N***a.” He wants you to know he doesn’t care it’s ACL, he’s just being paid to be here, rocking a Fuji Rock Fest shirt until ripping it off at the end.

“Blue Suede,” one of his signature early hits off debut EP Hell Can Wait, made amends to the #MeToo era first for its Death Row “Bitches ain’t shit” bridge before landing the eponymous hook that tributes both a blue-clad neighborhood association and Langston Hughes. Penultimate “Norf Norf” pleaded everybody to scream “I ain’t runnin’ from nothin’ but the police,” while closer “Yeah Right” asked a series of questions so real it left the crowd spinning.

Staples isn’t here to make you feel good. He’s here to wake you up.

Check out our daily ACL coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Vince Staples
Vince Staples Pays Tribute to Mac Miller at Emo’s
Vince Staples Pays Tribute to Mac Miller at Emo’s
Compton rapper prompts smiles and bouncing off walls

Marilee Bodden, Feb. 11, 2019

SXSW Music: <i>Spin</i> Day Party
SXSW Music: Spin Day Party
Listless crowd finally woke up for the headliner, Chvrches

Abby Johnston, March 19, 2016

More by Clara Wang
Texas Platters
Aaron Stephens
Focus (Record Review)

Dec. 14, 2018

The Bruno & Britney Show Waxes and Wanes
The Bruno & Britney Show Waxes and Wanes
Vegas spectacles reiterate that the show must go on

Oct. 22, 2018


Vince Staples, ACL Fest 2018, ACL Music Fest 2018, Odd Future, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Def Jam, Death Row Records, Langston Hughes

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle