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Vince Staples brings introspective rapping to Columbus

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Vince Staples is set to perform at A&R Music Bar on March 9. Credit: Courtesy of Eric White

Vince Staples is set to perform at A&R Music Bar on March 9. Credit: Courtesy of Eric White

Vince Staples was born in 1993, a birth year belonging to many fourth-year Ohio State students. His debut studio album, “Summertime ‘06,” arrived this past June, nine years removed from the time period the LP is centered around.

On Wednesday he will be coming to the A&R Music Bar at 391 Neil Ave. to share his experiences live.

During 2006, Staples was 13 years old but living a lifestyle unimaginable to most middle-school students. Like the majority of teenagers residing in the Long Beach, California, area, he became a product of an environment riddled with gang culture.

The desensitizing atmosphere accelerated Staples’ maturing process, something that he said made him wise beyond his years.

(Thirteen) was the age I came to a certain realization of what the world really was and what it really could be,” Staples said.

The profound awareness that Staples spoke of was most likely nowhere close to being on the brains of OSU seniors in ‘06. His understanding of the world around him was fueled by violence, limited opportunities and, most importantly, survival.

The LBC rapper cited unfair treatment by his education system as something that pushed area teenagers to participate in gang-related activities. Staples added that cost is still the biggest burden today on equal-chance schooling.

“Especially where I come from, if you don’t have college experience or college education, you’re not going to go anywhere,” Staples said. “It’s unfortunate, but you’re most likely to get a fair shake in life if you go have that experience.”

Staples found an alternate route away from gang life through rapping. Coincidentally, his first interaction with the genre has roots in Columbus. The first rap he remembers hearing is Columbus native Lil Bow Wow’s (now Bow Wow) first single,        “Bounce With Me” in 2000.

Ironically, Lil Bow Wow was 13 years old when he was rapping about rocking an iced-out Mickey Mouse around his neck, the same age Staples was when he hooked up with gangs to survive. “Summertime ‘06” is a collection of personal anecdotes that informs the masses more than any news report on gang violence.

However, that was never his initial intention.

“I’ve never wanted (to have) an activist voice, to be honest. I’ve never felt like I was in the place to do that or say that,” Staples said. “I just try to tell the truth without my opinion and sometimes it comes off in that matter.”

Following a brief 30-second eerie intro consisting of seagull cries and crashing waves, the California MC introduces his subject matter for “Summertime ‘06” on “Lift Me Up,” a frightening reality that few of his peers live to tell. He uses the metaphor of a terrified Jeffrey Dahmer-looking Uber driver pulling up to the projects to set the tone for a reality unknown to many.

While it might seem that Staples is solely cataloging his observations to bring awareness and a stop to gang violence, listeners get a succinct profile of the California rapper from a spin of the double-sided LP. On “Señorita,” Staples is bold enough to alert his rivals of his exact location.  

“Summertime ‘06” also contains important interpretations of love by Staples throughout the album. On “Summertime,” the bridge between the front and the back side of the album, he apologizes to a recurring female character. “Hope you understand, they never taught me how to be a man / Only how to be a shooter, I only need the time to prove it” are some of the most introspective lyrics Staples lays down on this song and the album.

“My idea was me trying to tell my side of that story because I’ve seen it and they haven’t, so no one can tell me what that life is like or what that experience is like,” Staples said.

He is able to tell a thoroughly fluid story throughout with the hands-on aid of executive producer and hip-hop legend No I.D. This is the case on most of his projects, as Staples said he often chooses to stick with the same producer because it makes it easier for him to control the types of conversations he wants to hold.

Whatever stories he has to share on Wednesday in Columbus are sure to attract the ears of those gathered for one of rap’s most extensive storytellers.

Tickets are sold out and doors are set to open at 7:30 p.m.

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