Since the release of his first commercial release, 2014’s ‘Hell Can Wait’, West Coast rapper Vince Staples has been on a significant hot streak. The coming of age tale of his debut LP ‘Summertime ‘06’ was undoubtedly one of 2015’s triumphs, with last year’s ‘Prima Donna’ EP also showing the huge talent that Staples possesses.
With ‘Big Fish Theory’, it’s clear that Staples has no intention of treading water. Production-wise, Vince’s experimentation with a variety of fascinating and unconventional beats across the record is especially commendable. The cold and otherworldly ‘Crabs In a Bucket’ is bolstered by a garage beat that you might find on a grime track, while the glitchy ‘Homage’ accelerates as Staples’ flow bounces with every flicker and thundering pulse.
As for ‘Alyssa Interlude’, its crisp instrumental could have easily been lifted from an Aphex Twin or Burial project and the industrial ‘Yeah Right’, one of the album’s many highlights, is a solidified bombastic banger. Oh, and happens to feature a prodigious guest verse from Kendrick Lamar.
The big names don’t end here either. The previously mentioned ‘Crabs In A Bucket’ has contributions from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, with Damon Albarn and A$AP Rocky also lending a hand on ‘Love Can Be…’ and ‘Samo’ respectively.
Lyrically on ‘Big Fish Theory’, Vince’s main thread is fame. On the Juicy J-featuring ‘Big Fish’, Staples not only reflects on his life prior to fame, but also address the problems that come with success. Further expanded in ‘BagBack’, Vince spits about the toll that his current life is taking on him. From racial profiling to fake friends, this spiritual successor to Kanye West’s ‘Real Friends’ is one of the record's most lyrically poignant moments.
On ‘745’, Staples deals with his relationship with love and how it’s still providing him grievances. Rapping about how “All my life man I want fast cars, NASCAR / All my life I want runway stars, Kate Moss”, these lines are juxtaposed by “All my life pretty women done tell me lies”. On a surface level, it may seem like fame has given Vince everything, but he also admits: "This thing called love is real hard for me. This thing called love is a God to me.”
In the run up to the release of ‘Big Fish Theory’, Staples spoke to LA Weekly about how rap music still isn’t seen as an art form. This album is a strong and firm reaction to that. Describing it as “my Afro-futurism”, ‘Big Fish Theory’ is a record that not only sees Vince taking risks and progressing forward as an artist, but also another astounding example of what hip-hop should and can be in 2017.
Words: Liam Egan
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