Vince Staples

Pop music and culture have clearly shifted toward rap and hip-hop in recent years, and one prime example is Vince Staples, who blends hip-hop with danceable, electronic and experimental elements for a sound that resonates with young fans and critics alike. The 24-year-old North Long Beach native’s wide appeal was clear early, and Coachella festival co-founder and Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett was ahead of the game.

Vince Staples
Shevin Dissanayake
– Vince Staples

“I have to tip my hat and give the utmost respect to Paul Tollett. It was a few years ago when Vince played Coachella for the first time,” WME’s Doug Singer told Pollstar of the festival’s 2016 iteration. “Vince played the Sahara Tent, the first time I’d seen a hip-hop act there.” The stage traditionally showcased electronic artists but the “massive set was absolutely packed” and featured dazzling visuals.

“Paul was extremely bullish [on Staples] and thought it would be a great look, and a great opportunity,” said Singer who represents the artist alongside fellow WME agents Kevin Shivers, Peter Nash and Jared Rampersaud. “Just to see it at a festival like Coachella, which I think is a great barometer for pop music and culture right now, was huge.”

Staples’ upcoming tour, a package with Tyler, The Creator and Odd Future alum Taco Bennett, is hitting major indoor venues including arenas starting in late January. It’s a homecoming of sorts – and the timing couldn’t be better.

“Tyler and Vince had gone out together as part of a package with A$AP Rocky, Tyler, The Creator and Danny Brown on our first tour with him,” Singer said. “It’s great to follow up that tour, which was fall of 2015, with this one.

“This is really Tyler and Vince standing on their own two feet and more than anything else really emerging as true A-level-caliber talents on their own,”Singer said. Tyler, The Creator is repped at WME by Brent Smith and Shivers domestically and James Rubin internationally.

Vince Staples
Jake Lapham Photo
– Vince Staples

Staples’ Big Fish Theory LP dropped in June and landed on many year-end best-of lists with guest appearances from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky.  Further building buzz is a “Black Panther” trailer teasing a snippet of a song featuring both Staples and Kendrick Lamar, who is producing and curating the film soundtrack.

Tyler, The Creator is a big draw himself, and saw his recent LP Flower Boy also among many critics’ top picks of the year.

Staples’ 2016 Coachella set gave his manager, Corey Smyth of Blacksmith, some added perspective for how production should be handled for headline tours.

“With the visual component at the Sahara Tent, it allowed us to really reimagine things,” Smyth told Pollstar. “That was definitely a tell-tale moment. If we had his set on a different stage, I’m not sure we would have gotten to some of the visual aspects of the show as quickly. That definitely thrusted us to thinking about how people were enamored with the visuals. They loved it so much, so we became very focused on that.”

Smyth stressed the importance of investing in visuals, and how Staples’ previous tours told a story with the production coinciding with the artist’s musical releases.

“If you’re not on stage with something that is visually compelling, what are you giving them?” Smyth asked. “You can say energy, but that’s a given. You’ve got to come up with something different.”

Although energy is a given, not everyone has it.

“Vince still suffers from bad asthma, but it used to be really drastic,” Smyth said. “The kid used to get on stage, and right before the show was over, literally the last song, he was damn near collapsing walking off stage to finish. He had decided he was leaving it all on stage.

“You can’t teach that, you can only hope that they believe that’s what they should be doing.”

While an artist’s agent and manager can be on the same page about the right steps to build a career, the artist has to be on board as well.

“My involvement with Vince had a lot to do with the type of person he is,” his manager said. “At that stage of my life when I met him, if it wasn’t him, I’m not sure

I would have taken on another artist.

“He was patient,” said Smyth, who’s also worked with artists including Talib Kweli, De La Soul and as business partner with Dave Chappelle. “It’s a patience game. If you’re patient and really looking at your surroundings, you can figure out how to get to the destination which is called success. But it’s really taking the time and really playing in front of the people. And if you give them a show, they’ll definitely never leave you.”

Smyth said WME embraced the philosophy.

Vince Staples
AP Photo / Invision / Amy Harris
– Vince Staples

“WME has been a great partner. They understood it. It’s something that works,” Smyth said of the gradual build. “I don’t think everyone gets it. To have an agent that gets it is brilliant.”

Part of the touring strategy has been to build Staples to a mass audience without being limited by genre.

“If you look at my own roster when we started with Vince, you saw a lot more indie rock acts, like TV On The Radio, Grimes, Sleigh Bells, a lot of different folks like that,” Singer said. “Vince is a perfect artist to really benefit from the perspective of people who come from somewhat different worlds.

 “And you can see that in some of the festivals we’ve chosen to play and the tours we’ve been able to get him out on the road, where we’ve had success bridging those two perspectives.”

Some of those looks include shows alongside Gorillaz, James Blake, and Australian collaborator and producer Flume, and contemporary festival events such as Pitchfork and Electric Forest.

The team approach is paramount to WME, according to Singer.

“There’s very much an attitude here where it’s less about ego, less about us, and about servicing the client and bringing different perspectives and opinions,” Singer said. “At the end of the day, if you can do that in an organized and polite and respectful manner, I think the client is going to benefit. Vince is case in point.” s