Vince Staples and Tyler, the Creator brought their North American tour to Madison this past Thursday, where each performed in front of a packed crowd at the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall.
The concert kicked off with Odd Future’s Taco, whose DJing got the crowd hyped. His playlist had everything from Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” to “God’s Plan,” the current Drake anthem — and meme — of 2018.
There was also a giant screen onstage which displayed scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and other macabre clips. As the “opener,” Taco provided a solid half-hour or so of bangers that readied the crowd for the evening’s first main act.
Vince Staples made a statement when he arrived, as he walked through a cloud of fog while donning a bulletproof vest. His set’s lighting had a black and white minimalism one would expect from the likes of Kanye West, and it juxtaposed nicely with the vivid instrumentals of his 2017 album, Big Fish Theory.
This contrast carried over to Staples’ demeanor, which was stern during songs like “Love Can Be…,” a track basked in the upbeat production of electronic club music. He also played songs from his Prima Donna EP, where the title track’s abstract beat naturally transitioned into the avant-garde aesthetic of his newest work.
Like with Taco’s set, Staples also made use of screens to play videos onstage. Clips of newscasts went perfectly with his more political songs such as “BagBak.” The lyrics “We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in that Oval Office/ Obama ain’t enough for me, we only getting started” hit just as hard live as they did when I first listened to the album.
The screens also showed footage of an Amy Winehouse interview from the 2015 documentary, “Amy.” Staples uses audio from this interview on “Alyssa Interlude,” where Winehouse laments about a love gone wrong.
Her words posthumously resonate with the album’s themes, which involve the struggles of relationships and fame. This track marked a shift in Staples’s energy, as he went from leaning over with one arm akimbo to standing in sorrow behind his mic stand.
Staples proceeded to bring out his darker records, performing “Blue Suede” off his Hell Can Wait EP and “Lift Me Up” from his debut album, Summertime ‘06. The latter track made the crowd ecstatic, and this excitement was preserved as a countdown timer appeared onstage.
The timer stopped at 7:45 to reference “745,” a song where Staples repeats the line “All my life pretty women done told me lies” threefold.
He concluded his 40-minute set with more songs from Big Fish Theory, including “Party People,” “Big Fish” and “Yeah Right.” With captivating visuals and consistent raps throughout, Vince Staples put on a great show that kept fans excited for the night’s other main act.
Tyler, the Creator’s vision has always been a bold one, and his performance at the Alliant only attested to this. After stagehands transformed the set into a forest, Tyler emerged in neon green attire as he stood atop one of the trees.
The vibrant tone was jarring compared to the neutral colors of Vince Staples’ set, but it was a nice stylistic switchup. Tyler mainly played tracks off his 2017 record, Flower Boy, a Grammy-nominated album containing hard-hitting raps and soulful melodies.
He began with “Where This Flower Blooms,” a song that has a spiralling piano intro, Frank Ocean feature and memorable hook all wrapped into one. The crowd sang along to the relaxing and relatable chorus of “Boredom,” which features English singer Rex Orange County. Tyler also performed “Foreword,” another Flower Boy track where Rex lends his vocal talents.
Tyler stopped the show midway through to put on lotion, using the random moment to segue into some comic relief. He took the time to make jokes about his ashy skin, Madison’s lakes and the crowd’s predominantly white racial makeup.
“I bet you $40 it’s under 30 black people in this whole f*****g state,” he said.
The rapper also called out a fan who requested he play the song “Yonkers.”
“Out of everything you could talk to me about, that’s what you say?” Tyler said with a deadpan expression. “Ay, f**k you.”
The room broke into laughter during these moments, as he has always been an outspoken personality. As great as Vince Staples’ performance was, his interaction with the crowd lacked compared to the level of engagement Tyler had.
He followed up this humorous downtime with some older records, including “IFHY” from 2013’s Wolf. Other throwback tracks included the chilling “She” and wild “Tamale.” What stuck out most to me was when Tyler finally got to “Yonkers,” as he kept saying “scoopy doopy” in between lines.
His unenthusiastic delivery of the breakout hit was a way of showing fans — not just the one who was called out, but everyone — that he cared more about his current projects as opposed to the song where he ate a cockroach and rapped about wanting to “stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus.”
Tyler wasn’t trying to discredit the track that made him famous. Rather, it was him acknowledging his growth in maturity as an artist, and he wanted concertgoers to have the same realization. Tyler, the Creator still cracks jokes and makes candid comments, but his actual music no longer needs shock value to be successful.
As such, the rest of the show had Tyler playing the more lyrically dense songs off Flower Boy’s tracklist.
He rapped the abrasive bangers “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time!” along with the introspective “November,” in which he emphatically screeched the song’s lyric of “Take me back!”
Tyler ended the night with “See You Again,” where he hung on to the words of Kali Uchis’ chorus: “Can I get a kiss?/ And can you make it last forever?” The crowd sang these lines back to Tyler and erupted into applause as he left the stage.
The Vince Staples and Tyler, the Creator concert was engaging, entertaining and, most importantly, essential for Madison’s hip-hop scene. The presence of these critically acclaimed rappers was huge, and it will only draw in more from the genre.
These artists brought their West Coast backgrounds to Wisconsin, and they both left lasting marks on those who attended the Alliant Energy Center Thursday night.
Haven't heard all the songs mentioned in this review? Check out our Vince Staples and Tyler, the Creator Spotify playlists down below.