One glance at his schedule, jam-packed with high profile sets, and it’s obvious: Vince Staples is the rapper most likely to experience a stratospheric bump from from this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival. But with earnest intensity and brutal honesty, Staples made one thing clear from the jump at his headline set at the Spotify House on Tuesday: he’s doing it on his own terms.
“I’m not the most polite person on stage,” the 22-year-old Long Beach, Calif. native said after blazing through “Lift Me Up” at the top of his set. He wasn’t kidding. The blunt, incisive straight talk that makes him one of the most vital rappers working right now transferred over to his stage banter.
The uncomfortable racial dynamics of a music festival that has grown into a huge breaking ground for urban artists took the first hit. “I know you’re all at SXSW like, ‘Let’s watch the black people rap,'” he said dryly at the top of his set.
The mostly white crowd cheered. “It’s almost like a real show,” Staples said in response to the enthusiasm.
But the biggest shots he took were at Spotify itself. “Shout out to Spotify. Thank you for giving me this check to make up for what you’ve done to me and all my musical friends,” he said, lambasting the streaming service that he said pays him a quarter of a penny for each song streamed.
Later he told fans to check the roster of artists who had played and make sure to “listen to your favorite album 1000, 2000 times so everybody can get an album sale.”
In between dropping vicious one-liners (“If you love your mama and she’s not a whore repeat after me…”) he deftly spit street wisdom with raw fury, without leaning on a backing track. Tracks like “Hang n Bang” and “Jump Off the Roof” were electric and the crowd went wild.
Throughout his set, the rhymes were tight and the energy was high. Make no mistake, this is the year of Vince Staples’ SXSW takeover, but he’s calling his own shots.