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On Tour with Vince Staples

The Long Beach rapper’s “Smile, You’re On Camera” tour kicked off on Friday night in Arizona, and over the next two months Staples will bring his indomitable flow to clubs and theaters across the country. Though already one of the most popular artists of his generation, the 25-year-old has always shrugged off the narratives imposed on him by a worshipful pop culture apparatus. Read more…

Staples has long insisted that he’s just a regular guy, doing a job. But his humble interpretation can’t quite cover up the sheer force of personality he brings to everything he does—not least his carefully produced, exceptionally confident live shows.

The tour couldn’t come at a better time, because let’s face it: we could all use more Vince Staples. Staples’s third album, FM! (the realest 22-minute summer radio mix you’ll ever hear) proves that he’s at the height of his lyrical powers. In a country that has trouble understanding life on the other side of the fence, his voice—exceedingly forthright, and occasionally grim—is more crucial than ever. And he underlines it all with an unmatched trollish, comic detachment.

So while you should definitely follow the tour via Staples’s Twitter feed (note to fans: don’t throw food at him while he’s performing), over the next few months we’ll be checking in with the man himself to bring you inside SYOC, from the stage to the tour bus to the Southwest flight. (“I make too much money for that kind of stuff,” Staples tells us of one piquant tweet.) We spoke the morning after the debut show of the tour, soon after Vince Staples and co. arrived in Phoenix.

GQ: How did last night go? Were you shaking off the cobwebs after not touring for a bit, or did you come in totally dialed in?
Vince Staples: That’s an interesting question. I never feel like I have to get back to it, only because we tour so heavily. Honestly, I don’t wanna say I can do it in my sleep because that’s arrogant, but I can a hundred percent do it my sleep. Like, it gets to the point I can perform songs I haven’t heard in a couple years, because of how often I do perform.

It’s interesting when you think about it, because touring is given such an unnecessary weight. It seems as if it’s tougher than it actually is. From the shows I’ve seen and from what I’ve done myself, the best thing you can possibly do in a touring situation is the same thing over and over and over again. Because it gives you a rhythm, it gives you some sort of consistency, and when it comes to the fans and whatnot, they appreciate it more than you think.

But it’s a long tour. You’re going to be out there for two months. How do you keep things fresh for yourself?
I don’t think I really need to. I can deal with it. It doesn’t bother me. I can do the same thing over and over again. Because you don’t want to get to the point where you don’t know how to know when good is good enough. And you can go too crazy with certain things, whether it’s trying to be too extravagant, or avant garde, or too much production, too little conversation, too much conversation. It’s happened. I’ve done them all. I’ve made all those mistakes. So at this point I know for a fact less is more.

So tell me about last night a little bit. What was the crowd like? How are you interacting with the crowd while you’re on stage?
It depends on the opportunity. We have certain scenes and certain things that we create that don’t throw off the flow of the show, but really it depends on who you’re talking to, where you are, what you actually have to say. The worst thing you could do is lose momentum left off a track. So we try not to do that.

In terms of your production you’re known for taking it really seriously and spending more money than you would normally have to in order to really blow it out and make it visually lush. Why do you invest so much in the tours?
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know. It’s like a push to the fans and stuff like that. I honestly end up regretting it in the meanwhile because I could have been making money and I’m not. But you get over it and you appreciate that it’s just for the fans—like the fan experience. We’re driving the fan experience and I don’t mind it.

Read the rest of the story via GQ with Samuel Hine

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