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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rapper Vince Staples Delivers a Nuanced Performance at the Grog Shop

Concert Review

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 11:08 AM

Vince Staples’ new album, Summertime ‘06, is turning heads for its blunt take on gang life in Long Beach, Calif., its extraordinarily subtle, yet booming, beats and its ability to speak to the loss of innocence in Staples’ life as a teenage gangbanger. With a Pitchfork rating of 8.8, Summertime ‘06 is a critical success and top many end of the year lists. The question of how or if Staples could bring all those elements to the stage remained unanswered for Clevelanders before last night’s performance at the Grog Shop. Thankfully, he proved the new songs make for a perfect transition to the stage for a crowd that was at times a little over enthusiastic.

Summertime ‘06 is Staples’ first full-length album, but he’s been in the game for years now through a number of mix tapes and as a featured artist, especially for his friend Earl Sweatshirt. Early on in the night, a fan with deep knowledge of the rapper’s catalog called out for a song from Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, Staples’ first mixtape. The Long Beach rapper appreciated the love, but he’s moved on from those days.

“I don’t play those old ass songs,” Staples said. That mixtape, he explained, came out in 2011 when he was locked up in a friend’s house (now his accompanying DJ) for some unsavory reasons, and the only way he was allowed to leave is if he recorded something first. So they worked through the night to put the mix together. He’s come a long way as he’s launched himself onto the national stage, and there’s no room for looking back.

That was perfectly fine as far as the eclectic crowd was concerned. “Both hands in the air,” Staples shouted to the audience. “This is beautiful, I see black, white, brown…” What Staples couldn’t see, though, was the black ink marking up the back of those hands.

A very young crowd came out to the venue last night, which only makes sense given Staples’ relative youth at just 22. However, listening to Summertime ’06 you’d think he’d lived a couple of lifetimes given his intense story of drugs, gangs, love and depression in what was surely a turning point in the rapper’s life. Instead of trying to convey all that emotion on stage, he’s still just trying to have fun. Maybe that’s his way of recapturing some of that youth he lost in the summer of ‘06.

“Summertime” and “Like It Is” show a vulnerable side to Staples not often seen, but those more intimate songs off the new album never came out during the performance. Still, the incredible bass and often-nuanced beats from No I.D. got the crowd going for the full hour.

Starting with “Dopeman,” Staples ran through nearly all the banging tunes from Summertime ‘06 and some from Hell Can Wait, all while peppering in some social commentary. “Put both hands in the air,” Staples said taking the role of a police officer with the crowd as his perpetrator for the song “Hands Up.” The same message came back for “Norf Norf,” featuring the line “I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police.”

“Senorita” closed out his set, which was clearly a crowd favorite as he had to stop the song after the opening hook to rescue two girls getting crushed by the weight of those bouncing around them. People took to the stage as the song ended and a small fight of sorts seemed to break out for a brief moment before security cleared the way. But by the time “Blue Suede” blared through the speakers stacked high and scaled by enthusiastic fans, all seemed right again. It seems unlikely Staples will be playing intimate venues like this for long, and it’s an opportunity that was not lost on this crowd.

The Cleveland hip-hop collective Common Ave opened the show with some slick old school beats off their latest release Aurora Borealis. Another local rapper, Dre Mickel, performed with a posse of friends playing some new songs released just the day before to hype the crowd. 

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