Wednesday night’s episode of Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons featured a pair of impressive headliners, with Nas and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors sitting down with the host. However, the episode’s under card, rapper Vince Staples, might have been the episode’s most impressive guest. The opening segment, which featured Staples and Simmons dropping diss tracks on various subjects, may have accidentally opened the door for an interesting future move by the fledgling show — making Staples the permanent co-host.
Since it premiered this summer, Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons has failed to make any kind of waves or garner significant ratings. And while I am unapologetically a Simmons fan, the show is still very much a work in progress. It deserves some time to figure out what it wants to be. That’s only fair. But I do think they may have stumbled on something when Staples was on.
The Long Beach MC was calm, cool and collected, not afraid or intimidated by Simmons and game to throw it back at the host when he felt like it. Right from the jump, Staples made it clear he wasn’t there to smile and nod.
Simmons: “Right now, I’m joined by America’s funniest rapper, Vince Staples. How are you?”
Staples: “That’s not the truth.”
Simmons: “Who’s funnier than you are?”
Staples: “Donald Glover has like, a comedy sitcom.”
Simmons: “Alright. Second funniest rapper.”
It seems relatively harmless, but it was a telling moment for young Vince Staples and set the tone for an entertaining segment, even if the premise of it, the two of the them dropping “diss tracks” never really got off the ground. When they introduced the segment, I thought that they might actually perform diss tracks. They didn’t, though. Instead, Simmons brought up subjects for he and Staples to bat around. But guess what? It worked. And it worked in large part to Staples.
For instance, according to Staples, we should leave Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler alone not due in any part to his performance on the field, but because the dude is a diabetic. And also because it’s cold in Chicago. Both fair points.
The “whole Kaepernick thing” as Staples called it, referring to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem before games, and something that has caused just a touch of an uproar as of late, shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Why? His afro.
“The afro’s been growing for a minute,” Staples said. “The afro’s grown at the end of last season. And when I saw it, I was like, he’s about to do some sh*t.”
Then Staples pivoted, touching upon one of the main talking points on the subject, that Kaepernick’s actions are in some way disgracing the military.
“And then we want to make it about the military. Like, you guys aren’t thinking about the military. We would do some Pat Tillman stuff every 4th of July if we really cared about the military. It’s just an excuse to be like, ‘Hey, this is why we’re mad at black people. Not because we just don’t like ’em, because, the military.”
Simmons wisely let the statement sit there and speak for itself. He, like the audience, realized that Staples just threw the hammer down on the whole Kaepernick kerfuffle in very short, succinct sentences, and a good interviewer (which Simmons is) knows when to move on because something has been marinated, baked and is on the table, ready to eat.
Of course, Any Given Wednesday being a Simmons-venture, a Boston sports subject had to find its way into the conversation. Simmons’ last diss was to himself, as he felt ashamed for quickly falling for Jimmy Garoppolo, the backup quarterback for the New England Patriots, who has been thrown into the spotlight while Tom Brady serves his four-game suspension for #deflategate. The segment was cordial enough, just some dudes casually talking football, until Staples threw a line out there that there was no way Simmons was going to leave alone.
Staples: “Brady cheated, on the love of the sport.”
Simmons: ” He did not! Don’t say that.”
Staples: “He deflated those goddamn balls.”
It’s an innocent enough statement; one that seemingly every football fan not living in or from New England has made at least once since the whole ridiculous scandal first broke, but Staples delivers it so nonchalantly that it’s endearing. I’m a huge Patriots fan and even I can admit I didn’t really mind him saying it because of how he said it and how he kept the conversation going, while Simmons deftly played the role of the disgusted Pats fan. Yeah, Staples called out Brady and the Pats for cheating, but not without adding that it’s football and the nature of the sport is to do what you have to in order to win. That’s rock solid logic right there and you can’t hate on that, which is why Simmons eventually relented and eased back.
Staples said he’d be back on the show when he was asked and, as a fan of Simmons and as a supporter of the show, I hope it’s soon. This isn’t a knock on Simmons by any means, it’s constructive criticism. Simmons is good enough, but he’s better with a foil, someone that keeps him honest, keeps him in check and keeps him from doing damage to himself by going off on tangents or deep-diving into Boston sports in a way that alienates the rest of the sports-loving public. Over the years, Simmons has established a stable of cohorts who he has this kind of report with; people like Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klosterman, Jalen Rose, Rembert Browne, among a few others.
Aside from Browne, those dudes are all older and are more likely to share his view or provide counterpoints that fall in line with his general line of thinking. The young buck challenges Simmons, though, and he’s good when he’s challenged. Simmons being challenged is the very thing that could save his television show, and Staples could very well be the person to challenge him the best.
Vince Staples has his rap career and all, but maybe, just maybe, he could spare a few minutes a week and, instead of Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, we could have Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons and Vince Staples.
I think we’d all be better off for it.