Staples crammed a lot into his hour, playing snippets of songs rather than the full-bodied versions found on the LP.
A few hours after Chris Rock castigated Hollywood about its treatment of black actors, Vince Staples showed a mostly white Portland crowd how to do a rap show. Armed only with a microphone and a DJ (Westside Ty), Staples played a strong hour-long set that highlighted his powers as an MC. There was no annoying entourage or props. It was an old fashioned hip hop show, one that stood in defiance to a genre that has lost its way from its stripped-down origins.
Staples took the stage shortly after 9pm with little fanfare, just the spare instrumental complete with seagull sounds that kicks off his excellent debut LP Summertime ’06. The 22-year-old didn’t need hype men to pave the way, his poised swagger exuded confidence. All he needed to do was break into that killer first line from “Lift Me Up” to get the sold-out crowd jumping. Rap shows often suffer from too much bass, a problem that buries the vocals in the mix. However, Staples sounded clear for most of the hour as he played tracks from both Summertime and his Hell Can Wait EP.
Staples crammed a lot into his hour, playing snippets of songs rather than the full-bodied versions found on the LP. While the recorded versions simmer, allowing Staples to take a backseat in some instances, the Long Beach native trimmed the fat, presenting lean, almost rapid-fire versions of the tracks, some lasting only a minute or two. It worked in some instances, but it also made the show feel somewhat rushed, especially for the songs that groove a bit, such as “3230.”
In his banter, Staples was funny and often confrontational. He admonished the pot smokers in the front, telling them to blow their shit elsewhere because he has asthma. At one point, he called us a bunch of middle-aged folks. Before playing deep cut “Nate,” Staples said he doubted that more than five people in the club had heard it before. But the club responded to the Summertime tracks, singing and dancing along to “Norf Norf,” “Señorita” and “Jump Off the Roof.” The best parts of the show came when he explored the darker beats from Summertime on songs such as “Get Paid.”
Despite its slender runtime, Staples did not disappoint, putting on a show full of swagger and energy. Already signed to Def Jam, Staples is already miles ahead of most MCs. Covered in sweat, Staples did a one-song encore, a version of “Blue Suede.” The lights came on just after 10 and though it might have felt early for a show to be ending, Staples impressed and definitely left this writer wanting more.