Middle of The Map: Vince Staples

There’s a certain confidence that comes with youth. For me, that confidence never came with insight. Vince Staples, on the other hand, has the ability to cut through the post-modern complex with one-liners that ring true in all their layered meanings. The first line of Summertime ’06 is “Hey I’m just a n****, until I fill my pockets and then I’m Mr. N****. They follow me why shoppin’.” These two sentences not only have an incredible amount of tension to them they also cover a staggering amount of metaphysical space. This is beyond how Staples manages to condense the kaleidoscope of pain inherent to racism into a few clauses. While there is a pain in Staples’ lyrics, his songs never bow to self-pity. This strength despite pain gives Summertime ’06 a power that is unequaled.

When I learned the Long Beach rapper was performing at Middle of the Map, I knew that the fest, in its sixth year, was going to bring some major heat. From Charles Bradley to Son Little, from Manchester Orchestra to BLK FLANL, Middle of the Map 2016 will outshine any other festival in any other city. Period. The four day concert series will have enough music to power a small city and a musical something for everyone.

But back to Vince Staples. The 22 year old rapper backs up his two colossal albums with a stage performance that is full of energy. Whether Staples is sprinting from one end of the stage to the next, bouncing out a beat, or stage diving, his performances split the atom of his recorded material to unleash the nuclear bomb of his artistry.

I may have misrepresented the rapper in my first paragraph. While systemic racism boils under Staples’ lines, he explores topics that are as specific and personal as they are applicable to the nation in general. In a VICE interview, Staples discusses how he isn’t trying to change the world through hip hop, he’s just speaking the truth of his life and where he comes from. This unflinching honesty carries its own power, yes, but in Staples’ expression thereof it transcends his own situation to comment on the changes that need to happen, or needed to have happened already–whether he wants to admit it or not.

Whether Staples’ concision and lyrical insight or the griminess within his music draws you in, there’s no denying the young rapper is a force to be reckoned with. The way the rapper intertwines personal narratives (fictive or otherwise) with social commentary is unrivaled. Rarely do I make such bold pronouncements, but if you miss Vince Staples this year at Middle of the Map, you will undoubtedly miss one of the best shows of the year. And I mean that trans-genrely.

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