Concert Review: Vince Staples @ Belmont

By Donovan Burtan

A fantastic night at the Belmont that perfectly illustrated the difference between a critically acclaimed, touring rapper and a local hype machine.  Vince Staples takes a relatively hardcore approach to his extremely well thought out songs and it provides for a fantastic live show.  Posterz took a similar “hyped” approach to the night, but their lyrics and artistic directions put them a bit out of Staples’s league.  Don’t get me wrong, Posterz put on a great show that proved some of their artistic potential, but the mature lyrical approach to Vince Staples’s mosh-pit inducing beats was untouchable that night.

The night began with a local rap group with a lot of potential.  Anytime a group leaves everything on the stage it makes for a fun time and they also brought some brilliant musicality to their work.  They mentioned at one point that once they get more money they want to hire a band and after hearing them sample the bass line from Tame Impala’s New Person Same Old Mistakes, I could totally see them being backed by some sweet neo-soul grooves.  Also, I was very impressed by the beats overall.  The bass wasn’t overbearing and they had enough detail to be considered unique. Posterz had their hints of immaturity, there were technical difficulties and songs about hitting licks and turning up the bass. However, their flow and production value clued into their future growth and I truly hope to see them again in the future.

On the surface Staples takes a semi-typical approach to rap shows.  The obligatory shouts of “F*ck Da Police” and “we’re gonna go f*cking crazy tonight” were present, however, the societal commentary provided on his breakout LP Summertime ’06 was supported by some of Staples’s actions and comments.  Before performing the song Street Punks Staples weaved an abridged narrative of his childhood relationship with the police.  Apparently, as a child, Staples won the science fair in his school by making a sculpture depicting the issue of global warming.  The diorama included an igloo with a polar bear inside of it and a warm, human environment on the outside which, (in my humble opinion) perfectly represents the shrinking arctic habitat due to reckless human construction.  Unfortunately, Staples’s childhood interest in science was short lived and his street punk archetype resulted in a spoiled relationship with the police that culminated in having police presence at a parent-teacher conference and, eventually, a jail sentence.  He went on to say something along the lines of “the only thing that ever made me want to be a thug or a street punk was my time in jail.”  His interest in science was smothered.  This is what led to the “Fuck Da Police” moment.

The theme of the song Street Punks touches upon the idea that the people who are usually classified as thugs in society are following word of mouth assumptions that are not always true.  Staples talks down to the Street Punks saying “No One Know About you” and that he “ain’t worried about these little [guys] talking about they hold heat”.  He also questions their “stash” and asks why they act so tough if they’re “flippin’ coke… [but still] broke.”  Staples has a very intelligent working knowledge of his community and he can see through the façade of toughness, drugs and weapons.  In this song he points out difference between the racist idea of a black man who has become rich by causing trouble on the streets and the reality of men in his community being driven to the streets by society’s expectations.  Perhaps these Street Punks are just as scared as he was when he first went to jail and had to look tough.  Perhaps they would have had the same interest in science that Staples once had and never initially intended to be on the street.  The combination of the Staples’s thematic lyrics and anecdotes made for a very intelligent rhetorical argument behind his anti-police declarations.

The moment that best sums up the Vince Staples concert was towards the end when the mosh pit was at its harshest state.  People were going crazy, getting pushed around and there were even a few crowd surfers.  One of these surfers landed on a women in the front row and Staples stopped rapping to offer his assistance.  Not a lot of performers out there are capable of maintaining composure in such a high intensity environment, but Staples is not trying to incite useless violence and he clearly wants his show to be accessible to everyone.  Staples may appear to be as hardcore as a Street Punk, however, it is also clear that he is also a great person and a brilliant lyricist.