By Alex MacDonald
Vince Staples, a Long Beach, Calif. native and talented rapper, has been making serious waves in 2015, including the release of his debut album “Summertime ‘06.” To wrap up his fantastic run this year, Staples will perform a sold-out show on Dec. 6 at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge.
To fully appreciate Staples’ style and recently found success, it is necessary to travel 3,000 miles across the country and four years into the past to Long Beach, Calif. Home of rap legends Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Warren G, Long Beach has a reputation for glamorizing gangbanging through its music. G-Funk, one of the defining sounds of West Coast gangs and ghettos, was especially prolific in Long Beach due to a slew of stars in that genre and the proximity to Los Angeles.
Vince Staples became involved in the gangbanging lifestyle during his teens, but he shed affiliations when he began rapping seriously in 2011, at the insistence of friends Earl Sweatshirt, Mike G, and Syd Tha Kid of the rap collective Odd Future and from his budding fan base he acquired from his features on Odd Future projects.
Much like Earl Sweatshirt, Staples utilizes a hazy slurred flow in conjunction with gripping lyricism, dark themes, and booming beats to convey his messages. In contrast to Earl, Vince Staples uses his music to speak on the lifestyle of young black Americans living in Long Beach, Calif. Despite his lackadaisical flow, Staples’ verses are clearly articulated and blunt, often taking the perspective of gang-affiliated youth. Unconcealed threats of violence and theft litter his discography, which includes four mix tapes and a studio album.
However, his representation of gang life never feels cliché or contrived and is littered with social commentary. In “Versace Rap,” on his first mixtape “Shyne Coltrane Vol. 1,” Staples recounted:
“My teachers said I had a vibrant mind, but a tarnished shine/ Doing violent crimes, put the money in my pockets/ Gave it to my mom, but when a nigga had a chance/ Never asked where it was from, happy that I lent a hand/ The day my grandfather died, I grew into a man/ Around the same time I first pulled a trigger/ I prayed it didn’t hit him, but after awhile I ain’t care/ As long as a nigga still here, right?”
At the Middle East venue, Staples will draw much of his set list from “Summertime ‘06,” his newest project and reason for the cross-country tour. Album standouts such as “Norf Norf,” “Lift Me Up,” “Señorita,” and “Lemme Know” will definitely be played. It pays to be acquainted with all 20 tracks of his double-disked release because Vince Staples loves getting love from his fans and having them rap along.
The Middle East is a small, intimate venue that will allow Staples to engage with the crowd and maintain a high energy with his banging beats and charismatic delivery. At only 22 years old, Vince Staples is only getting started.