Vince Staples released his fifth masterpiece, FM!, on November 2, 2018, just under two months after the death of his friend and collaborator, Mac Miller. FM! is an 11 track, 22-minute length project that is constructed as if it were a radio show. It features narration from radio legend, Big Boy, and inspiration from Mac Miller’s love for music and radio.
Vince Staples has been a part of many tours before that have made stops in Chicago. Most recently, he stopped at the Aragon Ballroom in early 2018 for two nights in support of Tyler, The Creator. The tour for this album, FM!, is entitled, “Smile, You’re On Camera.” The tour kicked off on February 1 in Tucson, Arizona and will end April 3 in Pomona, California. Vince Staples brought the tour to the Riviera Theatre on Tuesday night, March 13, 2019, along with guests JPEGMAFIA and Trill Sammy. Trill Sammy began the night before the official show starting time and gave our eardrums a nice little warm up. The speakers were significantly quieter than normal, so the artists on stage had to perform exceptionally to make up for the lack of bass. Fortunately for ticket-buyers, that is exactly what happened.
If you have never seen JPEGMAFIA (aka Peggy) in Chicago, put in on your bucket list. The energy that he provides is unmatched. Peggy produces all of his own music and takes on the stage in the same way, with just himself and his laptop. It is a raw performance that invokes blood, sweat, and tears, from the audience. Peggy’s set was riddled with both screaming and moshing as he etched his name deeper and deeper into the performance art history of Chicago. Peggy was the perfect performer to pair up with the already legendary rap artist, Vince Staples.
A massive screen stood atop the stage, with the entire crowd projected onto it, hence the “Smile, You’re On Camera” tour name. Vince Staples opened the show with “Feels Like Summer,” the first track of FM!, and then went right into my personal favorite of FM!, “Don’t Get Chipped.” On the record, Vincent raps, “You ain’t seen me at a show? Oh you missing out / Swear I bring the realest out.” This is true. JPEGMAFIA absolutely killed it as an opener. Not only did Vince bring out JPEGMAFIA, but he also inspired hundreds of fans to purchase tickets to his show. A concert is made great when awesome people surround you. The crowd was eager to get rowdy with friends as well as strangers, and belt lyrics for even people in the balcony to hear. Multiple mosh pits would open for the certified slappers like “Señorita” and “Blue Suede;” as the pits expanded, they would converge with other pits in a chaotic scheme of unity. Due to Vince’s asthma, the live recordings of his songs are spliced in with a couple of words every handful of bars so that he can get a breath in before nailing the next line. With perfect execution, this goes virtually unnoticed. Vince Staples is the only lyricist I have seen use this performance technique live. It is completely unlike the many artists today who rap entire songs over their own vocals or let entire bars go by as they try to catch their breath. The thought and production that goes into Vince’s live performance is one of the reasons why he is the groundbreaking artist that he is today. After an epic conclusion with “Yeah Right” off of his truly mind-blowing album Big Fish Theory, Vincent gave his parting words to the sweaty city and exited.
Before the Riviera lights turned on, however, a video of Mac Miller appeared on the screen. It was his NPR Tiny Desk Performance. I only saw a few people leave during this video, which spans 17 minutes in length. I believe many people were still in disbelief that Mac left us at such a young age. The last song of Miller’s performance was “2009,” an ode about lessons learned and wisdom gained. It brought tears to my eyes and I could feel the emotion filling the theater. It was a beautiful conclusion to another Vince Staples Chicago show.