When NWA came onto the scene in the late ‘80s many didn’t know where, or how, to place their music. Much of the rap that came from California preceding NWA was some minor variation of the music coming out of New York City. After all, to that point, rap was almost exclusively dominated by New York and their rappers. NWA introduced a new era of rap, adding to the genre in ways only they could. Gangsta Rap, in particular, took on a new persona for the genre, but also new production elements, rooted in old funk samples, creating what would become G-Funk, and ultimately, legitimating California rap on a national and global stage. In the years since, West Coast rap – from the Bay Area to Southern California – has taken off, and the seeds from the late ‘80s can be seen today in artists ranging from SOB x RBE and Kendrick Lamar to The Game and Mozzy.
In last few years there have been new voices added to the West Coast roster of rappers. Vince Staples and Buddy, in particular, follow in a long line of rappers hailing from California, and presently constitute some of the best of the “new school”. In their own ways, each rapper pays homage to those that came before them. Buddy, a Compton native, makes music reminiscent of G-Funk, filled with heavy bass lines, rhythm guitars, and plenty of synthesizers. Vince Staples’ music is more closely aligned with the hyphy style made popular by Bay Area rappers, but with an added flare of electronic elements. Given the musical lineage of the two rappers, it only made sense for both of them to head out on tour together – taking the California sound outside of state limits.
Accompanying his third studio album, FM!, Staples set out on his Smile, You’re On Camera Tour – a cheeky, yet fitting name for a Vince Staples tour, whose known for his caustic sense of humor — accompanied by fellow Californian, Buddy. On Tuesday, February 19th, Vince Staples and Buddy stopped by The Fillmore Philadelphia.
With the opening slot, Buddy took the stage wearing a black, puffy bomber jacket and a battered, red New York Yankees fitted. Though Buddy has come to be known for his melodically driven, and somewhat laid-back sound, he opted for songs that were mostly high energy, in what seemed like an appeal to an audience less familiar with him or his music. For the majority of his set, the crowd had yet to file in, but Buddy kept the energy high and loosened up the audience. And by the end of his set, the puffy bomber jacket was gone, as well as his shirt underneath it, and he was shirtless in the middle of a mosh pit.
As the room darkened, a large screen positioned at the back of the stage appeared with a surveillance styled video of the audience, that had a message: “Smile, You’re on Camera”. The stage began to fill with smoke, and Vince Staples came walking out performing Feels Like Summer, the first track from his FM! album, followed by Don’t Get Chipped - two high energy songs that immediately had the crowd captivated and moving.
After performing a few tracks from FM! Staples grabbed the microphone stand and placed it in the middle of the stage, asking the audience if they were ready for a good night. As Staples transitioned to music from his 2015 album, Summertime ’06, his energy was at a noticeably diminished level. It almost seemed as if he were tired, often letting the track play as he looked off to the side of the stage. In part, this could be due to the emotional weight of many of the songs – Lift Me Up, Street Punks – or the persona Staples has come to be known for: witty and smart, yet dark and bluntly honest.
Though there was a portion of the show where Staples seemed a bit out of it, he mostly displayed high energy, bouncing around on stage. There was even a 6ish-song stretch where Staples was at peak performance levels, performing music from Big Fish Theory: Party People, Rain Come Down, BagBak, and Prima Dona: War Ready. Undoubtedly, Vince was in the zone. The combination of West Coast rap, Hyphy, and electronic elements made for an absolutely frenetic, fun, and high-paced show.
Closing out the night, Staples performed what is probably his most popular song to date, Norf Norf, as he and the audience rapped in unison: “I ain’t ran from nothin’ but the Police.” After Staples thanked the crowd for being in attendance and left the stage, a message on the screen appeared: “RIP Mac Miller”, a longtime associate and friend of Staples. Shortly thereafter, a video of Mac Miller’s NPR Tiny Desk performance started playing. Some left at this point, but most stayed for the entirety of the video and applauded the life of Mac Miller.
****Shoutout Sade and Kenny!!!****