By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)
No one really expected Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples. Staples has been on the radar of many for many years but has never fully cemented the potential shown on his earlier releases. With last year’s Prima Donna, some felt that the Long Beach rapper was going downhill and losing his passion behind his music: on Vince’s latest, he hasn’t just set those doubts to rest, he’s gave the critics the nytol himself.
Crabs in a Bucket begins the album like a breath of fresh air with scattered production from Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. It’s a perfect intro that Vince flows over with ease and showcases what the next 36 minutes will feel like – house influenced banging beats with a modern electronic touch. Big Fish follows and stands out immensely. Juicy J’s infectious hook matches Vince’s sharp-tongued bars and a skeletal beat for one of the best rap singles of this year.
Big Fish Theory flows throughout without one noticeable filler track. Alyssa Interlude may be the closest thing to a filler but shows Staples at his most confessional and depressed throughout the project. As rapid drum tapping is paired with an old monologue of Amy Winehouse talking about past experiences with love, a beautifully sad picture is painted with compliments from Vince’s chilling verse and a sample from The Temptations. It sounds like a lonely stormy cloud.
Love Can Be… features Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur fame, Ray J, and one of the many Kilo Kish features on the album. Albarn adds a small amount of vocals on the hook, as does Ray J, but both really let Vince steal the show, as many of the features on Big Fish Theory do. Kilo Kish pops up a total of three times throughout the album and leaves gorgeous subtle verses whenever she does. She never overstays her welcome and adds a bit of flair to every track she’s on.
Slow burners like 745 and Rain Come Down add a darker vibe to the album that healthily compliment the futuristic club bangers that make up the project. 745 was made to be played loud in your car. Vince sounds at his coolest on this track as he is backed by a huge bass track and an infectious synth. Rain Come Down plays its part perfectly as a catchy outro but doesn’t go much farther than that. The beat is almost too subtle as Vince calmly raps out the project with a catchy hook from Ty Dolla $ign.
Towards the back end of the album sits the most energizing tracks we’ve heard from the up and coming rapper since Hell Can Wait. Kendrick Lamar is one of the very few features that makes an impact with their spot and goes toe to toe with Vince rather than acting as a background character. Lamar’s verse fits the mood of the track very well and sees him flowing over an odd but banging beat. The vocals from Kučka add a nice transition into Kendrick’s verse as well. Homage is one of the best standouts from the album and sees the 23-year-old rapper at his most ferocious, spouting bars interpolating the hook of Rick Ross’s “Hold Me Back” with the aggressiveness of a boxer.
Samo is another insane banger off the album, featuring hype-man lyrics from A$AP Rocky and bars like:
If I wrote your ass a love song, could I make it bang? / If I pull up with my gun drawn, run, I make it bang / Homie, tell me where you come from, tell me what you bang / Ain’t a damn thing funny, but we laughin’ to the bank / Never blow it on a chain, rather blow my fuckin’ brain
It’s one of the hardest hitting tracks on the album and again demonstrates Vince’s wild confidence. Throughout Big Fish Theory, Vince brings a dark undertone to the infectious house beats that make up most of the tracks on the album, like the adrenaline-rushing first single BagBak that is fuelled by rage directed at the American government:
Tell the one percent to suck a dick, because we on now / Tell the government to suck a dick, because we on now / Tell the president to suck a dick, because we on now
Staples’s sophomore album sees him at his most confident he has ever been with impressive features but no need for help stealing the show, Vince isn’t once outshined by his featured co-stars on Big Fish Theory. Capturing the attention span of the listener throughout the entire album. With the sound hip-hop has been embracing lately, Big Fish Theory comes as a refreshing, fun listen that can be dove deep into or enjoyed on the surface either way. It’s the young rapper’s best work thus far and brings a wild amount of excitement for his next move.