Vince Staples, the 22-year-old Long Beach rapper currently winning over the hip-hop community with his debut double album Summertime ’06, played for a packed house at Brooklyn’s The Shop Monday night as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s monthly concert series. Before performing “Hands Up,” from his 2014 EP Hell Can Wait, Staples honored scholar Cornel West and other protesters who were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri Sunday and Monday on the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
“This song is dedicated to my n—- Cornel West. He’s locked up right now,” said Staples, before asking the Brooklyn crowd to raise their hands in the gesture linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Throughout the show, Staples also alluded to recent instances of police brutality. “If you’re in Brooklyn, New York tonight and you do not f–k with the police, you gotta make some motherf–king noise,” Staples said. When concertgoers at the back of the venue didn’t join in, he addressed the fans. “I know what’s wrong with the back! Them n—-s is cops!”
The mentality also extended to Staples’ music, particularly with the popular “Norf Norf” hook, “I ain’t never ran from nothing but the police.” Staples earned nearly universal participation from the diverse Brooklyn audience, as the crowd sang along in unison and threw their hands in the air. The set’s politically-dominated final sequence included “Hands Up,” “Norf Norf,” and the Future-featuring “Señorita,” which drove the engaged crowd to frenetic moshing by the time Staples dove from the stage during set closer “Blue Suede.”
Other artists have spoken out in solidarity with the Ferguson protests. Common and Talib Kweli both voiced support on Twitter, with Kweli hosting a free benefit concert for Brown’s family in St. Louis on Sunday night. Killer Mike and El-P of Run the Jewels spoke with the BBC last week about their experience in St. Louis and why “riots work.” The duo famously performed in St. Louis after the grand jury in Brown’s case decided not to indict Darren Wilson in November 2014.