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.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

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

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