The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a unique, colorful and whimsical film that is distinctly Wes Anderson. The same can be said about the music of Vince Staples. His latest EP, Prima Donna, is unique, colorful and groundbreaking, all at once—a signature collection that is distinctly Staples.
So in a way, it makes sense that the Long Beach, Calif., rapper’s current tour is a blend of these two pieces of art. Wes Anderson and hip-hop are not a likely duo, but doing the unexpected is just what makes the two so well received.
As fans entered the floor for the sold-out show on Wednesday night, they were greeted by a glimpse of what the full production would be. A taste of the tour’s themes brought in short clips from The Life Aquatic, spliced and played in reverse on three large, curved screens on the stage.
As the film clips wrapped up, the tour’s opening act contributed her own brand of uniqueness. Kilo Kish is a renaissance woman—a vocalist, an artist, a painter and a designer who is pushing the boundaries of R&B. Her latest record, Reflections in Real Time, is an experiment in sound and emotion—a work that sounds like a postmodern, one-woman musical. And it seems that it was meant to be just this, as the live renditions reflected this perfectly.
Entering stage left, Kilo Kish took a seat at a desk, reading a newspaper as the introduction to her set. Looking up from the paper, Kish stood and walked to center stage in front of the mic and broke out into “Hello, Lakisha,” the second track off Reflections—one with a distinct Broadway feel, like an opening number introducing the protagonist.
As her half-hour set progressed, Kilo Kish took us on a journey, aided by props such as the desk, the paper, a phone and a briefcase. While delivering her wholly unique R&B and hip-hop, Kish acted the lyrics, putting full emotion into every line. Much like her album, Kish’s set played like a stream of consciousness—a personal struggle and a reflection on life. It was just as unique as the music itself, and it fit with the rest of the night perfectly.
Ditching the usual seemed to be a constant throughout the night. It was clear: This wasn’t going to be the usual hip-hop show. The moment Vince Staples hit the stage, the two worlds of The Life Aquatic and Prima Donna collided. Launching into the record’s title track, Staples was joined by underwater visuals, an aquarium of sea life. Fish, sharks, dolphins and more swam the screens behind him as the rapper dropped verses, aided by the electric energy of the crowd. Once again, The Life Aquatic Tour proved that two entirely different things can somehow blend together to make one complete artistic masterpiece.
As Staples tore through a set list of songs featuring cuts from all three of his records as well as one-off collaborative singles, this underwater extravaganza continued with even more elements added to the mix. On the Prima Donna track “Loco,” a foreboding image of a shark swam through the waters behind the rapper. It cut out of view before emerging to face the crowd as a canopy of lasers shot from the stage. Pushing the limits, it seemed as if Staples asked for the impossible and got nothing less. Can a rap show be amplified by “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads?” In the world of a Vince Staples show, anything is possible.
The lights, sound and energy never hit a low point during Staples’ hour-long set. There were no breaks between songs, no rests from the constant drive of both performer and audience—it was a constant upward motion. In looking back, there really is no match for what Vince Staples brought to the stage. It was a combination that seemed so incongruous and unheard of, but it just worked so damn well.