Almost instantly you regret not having forked over the money for the meet & greet upgrade.
In playing perhaps his three best songs—unless you think it's the next three he plays that are his best—to open the Life Aquatic Tour stop at Corona Theatre in Montreal, Vince Staples convinced you. Now we're big time, big time, big time.
The venue is on the smaller side, or at least the floor level is, with maybe a 400-person capacity—though there’s a second level with another 150 other seats. So yeah, Corona has about 600 people and while it was about half full (empty?) for opener (and at times Staples collaborator) Kilo Kish’s set, it’s basically sold out and at capacity when Staples starts doing his thing. I mean, even famed Quebec movie director Podz is there, so you know it’s popping. (You know it’s him cause later on he’ll go and Like the tweet where you tagged him at the show.)
It’s definitely popping, and with Staples starting the show with the incredible Prima Donna, for a night Montreal is under water. "Is it real? Is it?", sings Staples on stage during the song’s chorus. Those who had weed in their pockets have lit up their joints by now and it smells everywhere. It’s definitely real. Damn right it is.
Staples is in the middle of the stage and there are three LED walls behind him but that’s basically it, nothing else. On the walls we see different things that pay homage to the name of this tour, mostly different fishes such as those you see as emojis on your iPhone keyboard but also a bunch of different others. It’s the Life Aquatic Tour, you know?
From Prima Donna, Staples jumps into 3230 and then into Smile, another standout from his 2016 Prima Donna EP. And by the time he reaches the song’s signature line, "I know that money come and go so money not my motive no mo’ / I made enough to know I’ll never make enough for my soul," it’s clear to all of us the show’s gonna be marvellous. That the show is already marvellous.
All of which is to say, you know then you wish you would have paid to meet him. That’s partly Staples’s own fault, with such a filthy good beginning to the show, but still. The show is barely 10 minutes in and already you know it was worth the $35 ticket price of admission. And so would have been the VIP upgrade that included the meet & greet, a photo of you and the man, signed memorabilia, and an item to be shipped later—it’s Vince’s new upcoming album, you read somewhere. What's $60 when you get all that, you know?
You aren’t taking any notes, or taking photos (besides those you took with your iPhone cause, like, 2017 and shit), because you weren’t really thinking of posting this online but—damn, the show is excellent and you’re a writer, aren’t you?
Yes, and Staples is a rapper—or he makes rap music, to adopt his parlance—and for a night in Montreal, he’s rapping his heart out. He may hate rappers, as he’s told Noisey, but a rapper certainly is what he’s been doing for a few years already now.
The 23-year-old signed to the giant Def Jam following a series of well-received mixtapes at the turn of this decade, but odds are that you first heard of him before that with 2014’s Hell Can Wait. That EP, which he's created with his mentor No I.D., includes the standouts Hands Up and Blue Suede, both of which he’ll play in Montreal, and 65 Hunnid. Staples shows off on that album the same preternatural ability to demystify and explain in simple terms things that are complex in nature, like racism, police brutality, the war on drugs, inherited poverty, and others. "Man I need to fight the power but I need that new Ferrari," he raps in Lift Me Up. If he isn't his generation's voice already, maybe it's time we rethink things. Already in 2014, Staples had developed the sort of industrial, incisive and synth-heavy rap music with which he's become so synonymous. Vince Staples makes rap music, yes, but mostly he makes Vince Staples music.
Staples is working class, you know how the shit go and on three, let’s jump off the roof.
By 2014, he was a force to be reckoned with, and the ensuing albums Summertime ’06 and Prima Donna established him as one of the most versatile rappers out there. The native of Norf Long Beach, CA, is far from being outspoken or loud. In interviews and shows alike, he’ll say little unprompted. In Montreal, you’ll notice how little he says to the crowd during the show, which you know whatever, that’s how he is and it happens and anyway you’re there to vibe with him and rap along to his songs, not to chat with him right?
And while Staples may be one of the genre’s most ruthless voices, he’s also become perhaps the most unassuming rap superstar out there today. His music is eclectic, and his rapping versatile enough, that he’s been booked to a number of high-profile festivals, gigs like Osheaga, Coachella, Electric Forest or Panorama that attest to his rising star. That’s not to mention his video series with GQ, his wide variety of features (i.e. with Flume, on the new Gorillaz album, with James Blake, and a slew of others).
In 2017, Vince Staples is having himself a moment—and so is he in Montreal inside the Corona Theatre. The show’s almost over now, Staples has gone through the Andre-3000-sampled War Ready, the apocalyptic sounds of Blue Suede, and he's already left and come back out for the encore. First he played everybody’s favourite track Norf, Norf—seriously, make it your life’s goal to start pronouncing the word, North, the way Staples does—while standing in front of the same LED walls that now project a WELCOME TO LONG BEACH, CA, sign. Then we hear a dum-dim melody and it’s time for Summertime, the show’s last and swan song.
"This could be forever, baby," Staples croons over and over again. This could be forever, maybe. It isn’t, but you like to think that it would be.