Vince Staples Tattoo, Toronto ON, December 4

Vince Staples Tattoo, Toronto ON, December 4
Photo: Kevin Jones
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"All the ladies in the crowd make some noise for me," yelled Vince Staples as the female contingent of his Toronto audience cheered loudly. "Every show there's more and more girls in the crowd," the Long Beach rapper remarked. "Last time we were here, it was just a church full of n****s." The performance he was referencing, an electric set earlier in the year at NXNE, was only two weeks before the release of his acclaimed Summertime '06. With one of the year's best rap releases and more of a household name than ever before, the young MC was more than ready to show the capacity crowd in the provincial capital why his double-disc effort deserves the heaping of year-end accolades.
 
The room roared to life as Staples strode onstage in a grey hoodie, the opening notes of "Lift Me Up" piercing through the audience chatter. An incredibly focused performer, watching him wind his way through the song's emotionally charged verses with no help from a backing vocal track was nothing short of impressive, at times leaving space for the crowd and his DJ to shout back his lyrics. The audience were more than happy to flip the sinister air of both the opener and followups "65 Hunnid" and "Fire" on their heads, treating both the haunting beats and Staples' vivid tales of gangbanging and contrasting lifestyles as fuel for their Friday night celebrations.
 
Staples didn't stay straight-faced for long, interacting with the audience more as he settled in on stage after feeding them the usual line questioning ("Who's heard Summertime '06 in here?"). Laughing to himself as the audience had trouble reciting the rhymes of the swaggering "Birds & Bees," he helped them get back on track soon after by leading them through "Dopeman," a decidedly slower cut. "It might be lit in here," he slyly remarked before turning to a group in the front row looking to quench their thirst. "You already got the meet and greet and now you asking for water?" he asked as he passed out bottles. "Share this shit, it's for everybody." After getting the crowd to throw their hands up and wave for "3230," Staples' stage banter touched upon everything from Toronto city councillors ("Yeah, I know Norm! Everybody chant 'Norm'!") to leading the crowd in singing the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." "That was nice singing in unison. It felt like a slave ship in here," he deadpanned.
 
The urgency and severity that accompanies Staples' music was best explored in the latter part of the hour-long set, started by the rapper posing a simple question to the audience: "do you fuck with the police?" "I don't fuck with Matlock, I don't fuck with Dragnet, I don't fuck with CSI Miami or New York," he explained to the crowd, who shared the same sentiment. Staples' ensuing performance of Hell Can Wait cut "Hands Up" was an unquestionable highlight, with him not missing a word before the stage was lit up with red, blue and white strobe lights for the simple "Put your hands in the air" hook.
 
From there, it was a trip to the north side of Long Beach with the menacing "Norf Norf," priming everyone for one final blowout with the undeniable banger "Señorita." The Future-sampling, bass-heavy track brought the room near to the point of inferno, but even as Staples bid the Tattoo crowd goodnight, it felt as if there was still something missing. The audience began to chant "Blue Suede" as Staples sprang back to the stage as if on cue. The beat's eerie opening siren rang out, signalling the California talent to bring the house down one final time.