VINCE STAPLES, Kentish Town Forum – Evening Standard, 31 Aug 2017

The future’s bright for Vince Staples, who used a giant orange video screen as a backdrop to present alien rap music that was light years ahead of most artists in his orbit.

The 23-year-old Is from Long Beach, California, like Snoop Dogg. While his early single, Blue Suede, slightly recalled Snoop’s old G-funk squeal, his approximation was queasy, not sunny.

His arrival here for a headline show, amid numerous European festival dates, was appropriate, as he also has a few London connections. He has sampled Amy Winehouse, and worked with Damon Albarn on the latest Gorillaz album, whose urgent song Ascension he played here.

He has also turned this way for some of his more unorthodox productions. Yeah Right, from this summer’s new album Big Fish Theory, was a mix of chanting, cavernous sub-bass and jarringly frothy female vocals made with SOPHIE from the experimental collective PC Music. The cut-up jungle beats and random bleeps of Big Time arrived thanks to Mercury Prize winner James Blake.

Even when the music seemed more predictable, his brittle lyrics could surprise. Just two songs in, over the rolling synth riff of BagBak, he was suggesting unspeakable things for the President to do. Party People, on the surface a fun club tune, featured the question: “How am I supposed to have a good time when death and destruction is all I see?”

His obvious spikiness didn’t allow him to work the crowd as a more straightforward rapper might have. Constantly in silhouette in front of the orange wall, his between-song pronouncements were hard to hear. As with Kanye West’s recent sets, he was alone throughout with his stark backdrop, but didn’t quite have the room-filling charisma to need nothing else. A few more colours in his palette and he could really be the future.