Release Date: Jun 23, 2017
Record label: Def Jam
While it's a touch reductive to lump them both together, parallels between the careers of Vince Staples and fellow Californian Kendrick Lamar are uncanny and numerous. Both have found success despite swimming against the musical flow, performing dense, politically charged lyrics in an era more enamoured with the simplistic sing-song decadence of Migos, Rae Sremmurd and Lil Yachty. Both have cultivated on-record personas that are part bolshy street kid, part world-weary philosopher.
I used to look up to the sky, now I'm over shit. There's one word that seems unavoidable when writing about Vince Staples, one word that always seems to circle the paragraphs, the criticisms, prefacing every passage and every thought: Nihilism. If you've had the pleasure of reading his interviews or prose, it is evident that he is well-read, literary, and self-aware to an envious degree. Where writers pontificate around him, he's often one step ahead, commenting on their own clichés before they have enough time to disown them.
Vince Staples is not messing around. In fact, in the three years since Hell Can Wait, he's been nigh on relentless. Where that EP was a warning shot - fuelled by the power of fresh perspective, but marked as a cut above by wisdom earned the hard way - Summertime '06 felt like a full-on artillery bombardment. Over the course of 20 tracks, Staples - guided by Kanye's former mentor, No I.D.
Before Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory washed ashore, the Long Beach MC both amazed and aggravated listeners with lead single "BagBak," which demonstrated an obvious lean towards electronic music. "Why does everything that we create musically have to fall in line? What does 'falling in line' even mean?" Staples asked Exclaim! in an interview not long after the song's release. Staples' Big Fish Theory shares little in common with last year's Prima Donna and his Summertime '06 debut, at least in a musical sense.
The Northside Long Beach, California rapper isn't mincing words or pulling any punches on his new record, Big Fish Theory. He's lashing out at the Feds, racial profiling, the one percent, pretty women who lie, and the trappings of fame - to name just a few of his lyrical targets - all delivered with Staples' laid back West Coast flow. And he's not alone in his dissatisfied chorus of cultural resistance. Staples enlisted some big name guest stars to help bring his second full-length studio album to life, including Kendrick Lamar , Damon Albarn , A$AP Rocky , Rick Ross , and Bon Iver 's Justin Vernon - though some contributions resonate louder than others.
Vince Staples always has plenty to say, and he isn't shy. Having taken on the entire world and become something of an internet talking head, he's now ready to figure out where, exactly, he fits into rap, and how rap fits into society at large. His sophomore album, Big Fish Theory, peers into the fishbowl of the fragile rap ecosystem and considers how "rappers are perceived and perceive themselves," as he puts it.
Over the past year, Vince Staples became more famous than ever. And his newfound notoriety has as much to do with his unfiltered takes on things like viral video reactions to his music as his actual music. Staples is a critically acclaimed musician whose critical acclaim is mostly referred to in ledes of interviews where writers ask him what he thinks about everything except music.
Uneasy times call for uneasy music. Enter Vince Staples, whose thrilling second album, Big Fish Theory, is as disorienting as 2017’s headlines. Recent genre-blurring collaborations with James Blake and Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn suggested the 23-year-old Long Beach, Calif. rapper was nearing an artistic breakthrough.
Annoying, confounding, inspiring or entertaining depending on your perspective, Vince Staples' equally swift wit and intellect have made him Hip Hop's most charming anomaly. Craftily (let him tell it, unintentionally) he's self-branded himself as a coolly removed outsider from rap's shenanigans while exuding the charisma required of a class clown. On the intro to his sophomore studio LP Big Fish Theory he overtly shreds preconceived notions of his musicality.
Vince Staples is a preternaturally gifted rapper that’s been making major waves since his chilling breakout verse on Earl Sweatshirt’s “Hive” in 2013. Playing foil to Earl’s poetic introspection, Staples hit the song with cold, detached observation and threats that felt sociopathic as opposed to stunting. The schism between Staples and Earl evidenced on that song isn’t too different from Staples and the rap world at large.
Y ou'll occasionally hear seagulls on Vince Staples's records. Raised in Compton and Long Beach, the 23-year-old California rapper includes them, you suspect, to remind listeners where his taut flows come from. The squawks are sometimes followed by gunshots - more sonic signatures from those LA neighbourhoods. Juxtaposing Cali sunshine and Cali gang hell is just one thing Staples is good at; playing with time is another.
H e's funny, acerbic and his flow unspools as easily as liquid mercury but perhaps not enough credit has been given to just how weird Long Beach rapper Vince Staples can be. Staples's second album nods to wonky rave, fractured electronica and bass that sounds like it's ricocheting around a crater, as if he's opened the zip named "Vince Staples" and picked out the weirdest instrumentals in there (by names like the Edward Scissorhands of beats, SOPHIE, electro-funker Jimmy Edgar and, er, Bon Iver). It would be easy to cry "hipster bait" - Kendrick Lamar, Damon Albarn and A$AP Rocky also feature - but it makes for a challenging, dystopian listen, the blade runner to everyone else's replicant.
For the third consecutive year, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples issued a standout effort that continued to push creative boundaries while deepening his lyrical prowess. Big Fish Theory followed 2016's excellent Prima Donna EP. Continuing along the path of that set's "Big Time," Theory is a skittish thought piece wrapped around the nucleus of the Chicago footwork sound.
"It's funny - I was going crazy not too long ago," Vince Staples intones early on Big Fish Theory. That this is via its lead single, 'Big Fish', is surely no accident. It serves as a drawing line of sorts; for any wondering, this is the primary difference to his prior work. This album is certainly more comfortable with itself than the expansive, depressive epic that was Summertime '06.
Vince Staples made his name as a first-person documentarian, penning vivid narratives about the Long Beach gang life that loomed over his childhood summers. For second album Big Fish Theory, he moves from the past to the present, writing an open-hearted avant-garde dance record that takes stock of his current loves, victories, politics and - most noticeably - interest in the cutting edge of electronic music. Think Kanye's EDM-fueled Graduation for a future-minded, Spotify-fried, genre-free generation.
I’ve never been great at predicting weather patterns. In fact, I’m notoriously bad at it. Any time I try my hand at solving for the meteorological unknown, it’s a near-certainty that I’ll not only be wrong—I’ll be diametrically wrong. In all likelihood, the most plausible way for California to bounce out of its drought would be for me to fly into LAX just long enough to predict that the state would soon experience a really long drought.
There's a divergence between being an 'entertainer' versus being an 'authentic artist' in hip hop, and when Vince Staples released his debut album Summertime '06 two years ago, he was firmly identified by critics as the latter: the straight-edge former crip wordsmith spitting truths, demystifying and de-glamorising gang culture. In fact, labels of any kind didn't particularly interest the North Long Beach artist at the time: "I have to be a 'conscious rapper', or a 'gangsta rapper', when I'm neither," he told the Guardian in 2015, "None of that shit is real, it's just music [. .
The thing about black narratives is that they never really solely belong to black people--their validity often depends on what use it is to a white audience. Black voices aren't inherently flawed, of course; the biased transaction is woven into America's fabric. There's plenty of crystal clear expressions of black pain and disenfranchisement in modern culture, but it's the listener's decision whether to extend empathy--and, frankly, it's much easier for white people to have surface-level interactions with such expressions in ways that merely leave them feeling cleansed.
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.