Two years on from his stellar debut album, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples breaks through with this condensed, yet sparkling sophomore album Big Fish Theory.
We all know Vince at this point.
Known for his delivery and flow over punchy, dissonant and sometimes frantic beats, thus raising the 22-year old into the higher echelon of this generation's MC's. I'm still a firm believer that Summertime '06 was the only hip-hop release in a star-studded 2015 that could hold a candle to Kendrick Lamar's masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, and that's saying something. In short, this kid is good. Very very good.
So what do we think about this new record then? With features from Kilo Kish, Juicy J, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky & Ty Dolla $ign, and a short running time of just 36 minutes, it's hardly a saga. Production from the likes of SOPHIE and Flume to name a few gives it a versatile feel. In short, this album builds on just what made Summertime '06 so masterful - it's unpredictability.
The opening track, aptly titled 'Crabs in a Bucket', starts with a very ethereal synth intro that gives way to a gorgeous garage-esque beat, reminiscent of Stankonia-era Outkast. His flow is impeccable, and it sets the tone for the album. Kilo Kish's vocals here are beautiful and apparently Justin Vernon from Bon Iver was present in this track too, however, I can't hear his influence. This cut sets the tone for the whole project.
We fall into the lead single going into this album release, 'Big Fish'. Here we have the braggadocios Vince flowing over a very tight 808-heavy trap beat. He's definitely taken a step up lyrically, and this track shows that in ample amounts. He's bragging, and we love it.
A British female accent appears over fast pitter-pattering in 'Alyssa Interlude'. Vince sounds like he's struggling here, perhaps with a past relationship? "Sometimes I wish it would rain." This lyric reinforces his feelings. We've heard these struggle bars before, but this is very raw.
The fourth track, 'Love Can Be...', completely took me by surprise. The epic build up is followed by a beat you would've heard at a UK underground rave from the early 2000's. It hits super hard, and Vince sounds totally faded, yet eager at the same time. Sonically, this conveys exactly what the song titles says. Love can be reckless, crazy, and pure madness.
'745' has a very funky, 80s inspired rhythm, with a modern trap influence, and Staples rides this beat with ease. The subject matter is rather generic, but his storytelling and imagery are top notch here.
Now we heard raindrops, traffic, seagulls and the wind. The atmosphere he creates on 'Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium' is very thought provoking, even if it is just a 50-second interlude. It feels like he's spilling his thoughts out with an echo in the background of this one.
We've landed on my personal favourite track, titled 'Yeah Right'. The way Vince and Kendrick Lamar bounce of each other over this hard-hitting beat is something to marvel at. Two guys at the top of their game. They're calling out everyone in the game, questioning their realness. "Is your house big? Is your car nice?". Kendrick also must've used at least 5 different flows in his verse, again showing his unwavering versatility. They need to drop a visual for this joint right here.
On 'Homage', Vince reminds everyone in the game that he deserves gratitude. Over this frantic beat, he wonders where his Grammy is, or his award show invite is. This is a message for every major publication that's been sleeping on him the last couple of years, and it's relentless.
The most industrial and sinister sounding beat so far is delivered in 'Samo'. Here we have Vince claiming that it's the same old him, regardless of his topic choice or sonic changes in his career. "Ain't no father to my style, I'm the ODB", he tells us whilst paying homage to Wu-Tang in the process.
'Party People' is an absolute banger. He's angry and disappointed at all the chaos and destruction in today's world, and let's us all know that happiness, positivity and good vibes is all that's needed to have a good time. The second half of this album is explosive!
Yet more braggadocios behaviour from Staples on 'BagBak'. This beat slaps and that's all there is to say on this one. Vince wasn't kidding when he said he's making music for 3017, not 2017.
So here we are, the final track. A welcome feature from Ty Dolla $ign on 'Rain Come Down' is exactly what's needed to sign off this spectacular project. At almost 5 minutes long, it's the longest track on the whole thing. This is Vince giving us one last reminder of his stature and self-belief in his own abilities.
So that's it, another Vince project that doesn't disappoint but builds on his previous efforts. He's going places and the whole world knows it.
He's definitely a big fish now.