My mom became a Vince Staples fan the night I found out I’d be joining him on his Smile, You’re On Camera Tour.
In a matter of days, she went from the not knowing he existed to calling me about bringing my PS4 on tour so that Vince wouldn’t be “so bored.” I got to introduce them about two weeks later, in the green room of our Philadelphia show at The Fillmore.
Being born and raised in this city, having so many familiar faces in my hometown watch me play on my first tour was big, but my mom being able to see her son on a tangible trajectory and in the presence of an artist already “there” was a different feeling. It was one of those moments where dreams start to feel more realistic, especially to her.
As for me, there were many other moments that gave me that exact feeling.
My run on Smile, You’re On Camera lasted from Feb. 18 to Feb. 28:
Eight shows, seven cities, 3,000 total miles, 15,000 fans.
The mission was to go in there and recoup as many fans as I possibly could. To make sure the show didn’t feel like three different alienated performers on the same stage, but three acts that contribute to a full experience. So, I fully exploited those 20 minutes every night to give them a reason to be Armani White fans, the same way Vince converted my mom.
The first day out, we were hype as hell; honestly, we had been since Vince’s touring party confirmed it with my booking agent. There’s this misconception about touring, though, that it’s just one big mobile bus party, and that’s so far from true. The realities of touring are stressful.
We all drove our own cars. We had to calculate how many members of my team we could bring, how much we’d make minus how much it was all going to cost, and so on. Plus, I had ruptured my meniscus a few days before joining Vince so I had to limit my stage jumping to my new mobility. Some venues were sold out, others half filled, but I’ve been raised, since a little kid, to treat a storefront like a stadium. So, I made the best out of whatever was given to me.
That mentality came in the clutch during our Boston show. We were performing when, all of a sudden, the storm doors on the side of the stage swung open. At one point, I saw my tour manager trying to pull them closed. I stayed on stage and kept rapping my verse until my microphone clipped and the music shut off. My tour manager ran out on stage yelling, “Yo! We gotta go! They’re evacuating the building!” We all ran outside in 20-degree weather. So to warm ourselves up, we paraded down the street amping the crowd up and taking pictures, which made it a lot easier to go back inside and finish the last six minutes of our set. It turns out the stage smoke tripped the fire alarm.
Oh yeah: I also lost my voice the morning of our second show in D.C., which meant I had to hit the tea and honey hard in the green room and down a bunch of ginger candies. I pushed through all 20 minutes that night in D.C., and ironically, it turned out to be the best show of the entire tour. (Montreal was a close second. Canada was turnt!)
Honestly, that might have been the best show of my entire career outside of Made In America Festival last year in Philly.
When I wrote my single ‘Onederful’ I was imagining crowds like the ones I got to play to for on this tour. Every night, I’d end my set with “Onederful” and have them sing the words “I came a long way” with us one last time before we walked off stage. In the past when I’d have big audiences, we never had a signature song to give them. “Onederful” stepped in and gave me my chance to go grand and really connect with the audience.
By the last day, I was dead tired and grateful that my voice and I had made it through 10 days of performances, and I got through it without messing up my knee further. The entire ride back from Canada, all I could think about was the nose dive I was about to take into my bed and sleep crazy hard before jumping right back to work. The best kind of exhaustion.
I’m off the road with Vince but still on the road for a few more shows. Looking back on it, my biggest takeaway from the tour was the inspiration. It gave me something to reach for, watching Vince every night control a crowd of 2,500 people who know all of the words. As amplified as every night was, though, I made sure not to get lost in the experience. Life on tour is not real life for me yet. It’s not like every day the door of the room I’m sleeping in leads to a stage where thousands of people are waiting for me to grab a microphone.
Smile, You’re On Camera was a crazy opportunity that I’m still ever so grateful for. But I also know that a big opportunity like that is a moment I have to capitalize on and transfer to my career moving forward. I studied the interactions and pre-planned to make sure it’s not too long until I’m right back in these venues but as the headliner. I never liked to celebrate a touchdown before the game’s over, so tour for me is obviously a lot more “work” than it is “play.”
I posted this to Instagram as soon as my run on tour ended, but it’s just as true written here:
I learned a lot and forgot even more. But here’s to the memories we saved on camera.