KNITTING FACTORY & TREEFORT PRESENTS
Vince Staples: Smile, You’re On Camera
Recording artist Vince Staples has come a long way from his trying upbringing in Long Beach, California’s Ramona Park neighborhood. Releasing his critically acclaimed debut Summertime ’06 album in 2015, the then twenty-year-old saw his life turned right side up, going from being nearly trapped to having what appeared to be complete freedom.
Yet, as his most recent projects suggest, appearances can be deceiving. The LPs delves into the confusion of sudden fame and acclimating to a lifestyle antithetical to the one he’d known in Long Beach – one wrought with gang violence and poverty. It’s a fundamental narrative in hip hop, but rappers have always found a new way to breathe life into it. Staples brings forth a vision that’s brutal, elegant, playful, and despondent in one breath.
Such is the nature of his music, as self and socially aware as it is comical. With FM!, Big Fish Theory, Prima Donna and Summertime ’06 behind him, Staples has set the tone for what’s yet to come. A standout rapper in today’s hip hop world, he keeps his sound deeply tied to his west coast roots and his message one that knows no boundaries.
In a world of full of painful departures, his art gives listeners reason to believe that, somehow, as he advances, the people who have left him and the people who he's left behind will still be waiting for him at the end.
Often, art is considered the safe space for dangerous ideas. JPEGMAFIA is a reminder that in a dangerous world, sometimes nowhere is safe. Operating out of Baltimore Maryland but born in New York to Jamaican parents, JPEG spent the bulk of his childhood in East Flatbush, Brooklyn – a neighborhood deeply rooted in West Indian culture and black pride – & the majority of his mid teens in deep south rural Alabama – bouncing from place to place due to rough circumstances at home & after a short stint in prison due to a racially-charged altercation in his late teens, JPEG joined the military where he’d be deployed to different parts of the world, meeting fellow artists and adding new elements to his producing and rapping repertoire.
If trap music is the sound of the street, then JPEGMAFIA is trap’s subconscious; dark but not without a humor that makes things even more uncomfortable. His role as villain or satirist, hood protector or nihilist is intentionally hard to put one’s finger on. What more appropriate way to embody the frightening and confusing reality of America today?