by Chloe Catajan
They say that technology gets in the way of living in the moment and keeps us too connected, but Vince Staples flips this digital age dilemma around with his Smile, You're On Camera tour. The Long Beach rapper, currently on the road in support of 2018 release FM!, stopped by Oakland last Friday and delivered an engaging performance driven by his sharp, effortless flow and interactive stage setup.
Staples opened with "Feels Like Summer" and "Don't Get Chipped," two of
FM!'s bouncier tracks compellingly ladened with darker lyrics. Behind the rapper, a backdrop projected a six-part split screen emulating video surveillance channels. They flashed live footage of Staples storming the stage from all angles, as well as shots of the audience endlessly hyped. Sure it seemed a little big brother-like, but it wasn't invasive nor excessive. Instead, it gave everyone's experience with the music the spotlight and kept the high energy going.
The show continued with Staples bringing out cuts from across his catalog, tapping into the broodier beats of "Lift Me Up" and "Street Punk" from
Summertime '06, as well as "War Ready" off Prima Donna. He made it clear that the fan experience was the priority here, constantly checking in on the crowd and riling them up for every hard-hitting refrain. During "FUN!," Staples even tossed some merch to the crowd.
Staples closed with several fan favorites, including "Blue Suede," "Norf Norf" and "Yeah Right." He sent Oakland off by airing Mac Miller's NPR Tiny Desk Session—an understated tribute to the late rapper that had many in the room misty eyed.
Baltimore's JPEGMAFIA preceded, transforming the venue into what seemed like a punk show at a dive bar. The rapper often jumped to the barricade, meeting fans face-to-face and immersing them into his performance. Mosh pits ripped through the floor with crowdsurfers emerging from the depths; no other energy would have better suited his set.
JPEGMAFIA teased some new material, although he couldn't play them. That didn't set back the performance at all, though, obviously riling up the crowd with a selection of songs from 2018's Veteran and 2016's Black Ben Carson, as well as "VENGEANCE | VENGEANCE," his collaboration with Denzel Curry, and single "Puff Daddy." The rapper's music packed a frenzy of sounds and textures, from throat singing samples to smooth R&B beats to glitchy synths, all of which melded together seamlessly with his punchy delivery.
"I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies" and "Baby I'm Bleeding" rounded out the set. But before JPEGMAFIA took off, he gave the audience a present he always reserves for, using his words, "the best crowds." With that said, he did the worm and went offstage.
Flying in from Compton, Channel Tres opened up the show with a hypnotizing blend of house, funk and pop. His vocals were deep and effortlessly rich, smoothing out his sound with a really warm timbre. With two dancers matching his every move, everything Channel Tres and company delivered physically and sonically got the audience into the groove. "Controller" pulsed with easygoing beats and a jazzy sax sample, while "Topdown" closed the set with an atmospheric soundscape that was intense, yet gentle on the ears all at once.
(Photos: Chloe Catajan)