“God, I hope I survive this shit. Lemme hear you say ‘FUCK YOU PEGGY!’”



JPEGMAFIA crouches down, presumably dealing with the “massive migraine” he told us about before snapping into an explosive performance of “Thug Tears” earlier. FUCK YOU PEGGY! Peggy bends back.


The crowd continues the chant. At this point I can’t see JPEGMAFIA, presumably on the floor, covered by the crowded sea of middle fingers and flailing arms, some holding iPhones vertically. The chant stops for a brief moment, and Peggy takes a pause, waiting for the precise moment in the beat when his verse starts. It comes and he springs skyward like an erupting volcano.

“I NEED ALL MY BITCHES SAME COLOR AS DRAKE,” Peggy screams. The fans scream the lyrics with him.

Now, “1539 N. Calvert” is a moderately popular song (almost seven million plays on Spotify) and JPEGMAFIA is a moderately popular artist, but coming into Royal Oak Music Theatre last Sunday night, I was not aware the crowd would be as hyped for him as they were for the main event. There must have been a lot of pent up energy among the concertgoers that the first opener did not succeed in drawing out — I came at the very tail end of his set and at most the audience was swaying along to final song. Opener-whose-name-I-missed-as-it-was-drowned-out-by-noise, I’m sure you did a fine job, and best of luck in your future endeavors.

But like most everyone else there, I was here for Vince Staples, with JPEGMAFIA serving as the spiciest appetizer you could ever want. The tour organizers most likely knew the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the International Society of Peggy Stans would come out in full force that night, so he was blessed with a nine-song set. In a word, it was insane. My jaw was open the whole time as Peggy moved frenetic between the stage and crowd, lovingly engulfed by the hip hop heads and hypebeasts comprising the latter. He didn’t even have a DJ: I think he was playing beats straight from his Spotify library.

JPEGMAFIA was spastic and always blurry in my camera’s viewfinder. Even in moments of supposed calm between songs, he was pacing around a mile a minute. What was more awe-inspiring was the aforementioned fact he had a migraine, yet still, he pushed through with all cylinders firing. He made time to joke around: “Can you get a migraine from smoking too much weed?”

Even if you couldn’t see what was going on, you could hear and feel the energy abound. I know if I asked those around me in the packed venue no one would’ve said JPEGMAFIA half-assed his set. From the moment he stepped on stage to the final seconds of “Baby I’m Bleeding,” full-assery was on display.

Then came a 45-minute wait between opener and headliner — what else is new. When those customary minutes expired, the lights went out and the crowd built to a roar while background noise built a complementary drum kick. Lights on, there’s Vince. Let’s go, baby!

The kick blends with the whirring drone underscoring “Feels Like Summer,” and as Vince raps the opening lines, he stays put. “Summertime in the LB wild / We gon’ party till the sun or the guns come out” comes in a biting monotone from Staples. Vince, in his baby blue hoodie, stood in contrast to Peggy and the tan ballistics vest that bounced unsecured on his chest, but the energy didn’t die down. It was different, diverging from the same source from which Peggy pulled.

Vince Staples interspersed cuts from his latest release, 2018’s FM!, with songs from all eras of his catalogue that I assume have become concert — no pun intended — staples. After “Don’t Get Chipped,” the crowd made good by Vince, taking the title action of “Lift Me Up” literally. He “really wanted to hear [us] scream” when prefacing the song, and scream we did, going wild to “Street Punks,” “Relay” and “War Ready” after that. The peak of our energy came with a two-song run of “Big Fish” and “Outside.” These songs aren’t exactly club-ready bangers, but they certainly get you moving, the more adamant fans contorting and jumping around while blurting out the words.

In most things he does, Vince is acutely aware of the situation and exists one step ahead of everyone, occupying a powerful space behind the fourth wall he consistently knocks over. With the “Smile, You’re On Camera” Tour came a literal camera constantly filming both Vince and the crowd, projected in real time on an LED screen behind the artist on stage. The digital display framing this live feed resembles an old computer monitor glitching between shots of the artist, the crowd or the multicolored “No Signal” test pattern.

The set design also made it appear as there were two large monitors sandwiching a square of four smaller monitors, and on these smaller monitors an assortment of footage was playing: CCTV footage drawn from god knows where, random stills drawn from the oddest of art films, pornography. Seeing this display, a daring and engaging piece of video art seemingly drawn from the oddest times of the ’80s, was well worth the price of admission alone.

I will never forget Vince Staples hastily signing tour merch and throwing it to the beastly crowd as E-40’s refrain of “Mack a bitch down, mack a bitch down” from “FUN!” looped from the speakers overhead. I will never forget the security guards failing to drown crowd surfers elated as Vince played the instant classic “Norf Norf” for his penultimate performance.

For a lot of reasons, Staples, undeniably aided by JPEGMAFIA’s opening act, put on a night to remember during his Michigan stop of the “Smile, You’re On Camera” Tour. Even though I could hardly get a good picture due to the crowded commotion, I don’t care. Those bumping into me were engaged in this wonderfully joyous variant of debauchery, which flew around the whole venue and made the stuffy air breathable. It put a goofy smile on my face. Funny enough, I was the one with the camera on Vince Staples.

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