When the lights dimmed and the curtains opened at The Novo in Los Angeles on Monday night (March 18), an anxious crowd were met with a giant digital clock that started counting down from 7:15. “Wow, are we really going to wait for SEVEN minutes for him to come out?”
The answer was, yes. Yes, of course. Once the clock hit zero, Vince Staples charged on stage with the first few bars of “BagBak.” Armed with a bulletproof vest, he moved nimbly and energetically as he stared down the audience. He was coming for vengeance.
Less than a week ago, Staples started a GoFundMe campaign, in which he promised to “shut the fuck up forever” if the goal of $2 million was achieved (at the time of publication, barely $2000 was donated). The catalyst for this was alleged complaints about Staples’ live show, citing low energy and production values. While Staples was passive-aggressive in his GoFundMe video, on stage at the Novo, the rapper seemed to have harnessed the critiques, and the result was one of the best performances of Staples I have personally seen.
Staples has been praised for his contributions to hip-hop since his 2015 debut, Summertime ‘06. He has a knack for describing the effects of police brutality, gang violence, and — as he’s progressed in the rap ecosystem — the pratfalls of fame and money. At the beginning, Staples couldn’t seem to find a way to translate what he had on record into a live show — until now.
Illuminated by rotating lights that also acted as mini screens, Staples’ silhouette was the most frequent view the audience had. However, instead of squinting and adjusting your eyes searching for him, the crispness of his delivery and the sharpness of his lyrics is what took center stage. This seemed to be his intention: diverting attention away from himself physically, but still making you aware of his presence.
By the time he approached the 1-2 combination of “Alyssa Interlude” and “Love Can Be…,” Staples’ demeanor calmed, as he took the mic stand and rapped, “Love can be a loss, or maybe not.” But his initial power did not waiver — he stood almost perfectly still, his eyes still locked with the audience, and for the rest of his one-hour set, Staples would pause intentional pauses and slink back and forth across the stage, like a shark circling his prey.
Staples’ stoic stance might register as off-putting to some, especially against the manic dance beats that make up the majority of Big Fish Theory. But what is captivating about his stillness is the authority behind it, which is only elevated by the newsreels and pulsating lights in his production. That silhouette that Staples makes you stare at for the last 60 minutes shows someone who is standing tall against the chaos behind him, and he isn’t flinching.
— Tye Nevarez (@TyeGrr87) March 13, 2018