Vince Staples Turns Heads at Sloss Fest in Birmingham, AL

By Jay Donnell

Photos by Ashton Johnson

Before I begin this story I would like to let it be known that I’ve only been to a handful of rap shows, but I listen to rap everyday and the hip-hop genre probably accounts for about 50% of the music I absorb on a daily basis.

The first hip-hop album I ever listened to was Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP.” My late friend, Chuck Stewart, and I snuck into his older sister’s room (she was five years older than us) took the CD out of her dresser drawer, where Chuck knew she hid it, and put the CD in the boom box. Out blared the life changing and extremely controversial track, “My Name is.” I was nine years old and entirely too young to be listening to that song, but it’s still one of my favorite tracks of all time.

I have not attended many hip-hop shows and I don’t have any particular reason why. I suppose I let myself fall into the trap of thinking that rappers simply aren’t as good live; and while that is the case for some performers, there are others who stand out considerably, as is the case with any musical genre. On Sunday, July 16h at what’s quickly becoming one of the South’s must see music festivals, Vince Staples stood out. He showed out. He balled out. Whatever your preferred terminology is, the 24-year-old prodigy nearly set the roof on fire at the “Shed” at Sloss Furnaces by laying down one fire track after another.

Staples’ ability to energize a crowd seems to come effortlessly. From his magnificent style to his unique stage setup (Staples was in front of a bright orange screen, wearing dark clothes, which made him look like a shadow as you can see from picture below), the California native awed the festival goers who chose to see the Compton-born (Long Beach raised) phenom instead of the Alabama Shakes, who were performing on the “Blast” stage at the same time. They were rewarded and then some.

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While the breathtaking voice of Brittany Howard echoed outside, Vince Staples was belting out lyrics from many of the songs off his new album, Big Fish Theory, which was released in late June. It currently sits at number 16 on Billboard’s top 200 albums, but expect that number to reach single digits in the coming months. When Staples laid down the most popular track off Big Fish Theory the raucous crowd could hardly contain themselves. The song is entitled “Big Fish” and it currently has 3,778,008 views on YouTube. Expect that number to rise quickly as the song has only been on the wildly popular video watching site for a mere 60 days.

The crowd probably got the loudest during “Yeah Right,” which is another track that is quickly becoming increasingly popular in the hip-hop community. The positively scorching track features Kendrick Lamar. Staples finished off the night with arguably his most popular song, “Norf Norf,” from his 2015 album, Summertime ’06. It was the perfect closer.

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The entire show was as close to flawless as I’ve ever seen from a musician. His flow was spot on and he never seemed to miss a beat. Staples instrumentals have a unique sound and will leave you wondering why you haven’t been listening to this absolute heat maker of an MC. I was amazed, my friends were amazed and I was extremely grateful to my friend who told me that we had to go see him. 

If you’ve been skeptical about listening to Staples or you’ve never heard his music before I encourage you to give him a try. If you don’t really like hip-hop he might just change your mind and if Staples continues down his current path he might just change the game.

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Watch and listen to the “Big Fish” music video below:

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