vincestaples_LEAD

Vince Staples‘ sophomore album Big Fish Theory is a bold and audacious move towards creative liberation. In just 12 songs, Staples showcases his versatility as a blossoming writer, displaying a knack for parodying, embracing and criticizing the rap game. Within the same narrative he also takes time to divulge some of his most pressing concerns, touching upon mental illness and the debilitating toll success has taken on him.

The selection in beats has a two-fold effect: on one hand it reflects his experimental state of mind but on the other it pulls him too far away from his wheelhouse. It’s not a major concern, but one that puts a slight hitch in the process. Big Fish Theory is one of those rare instances where the end product would have been much better with a few more songs, a couple more fleshed out ideas that would have made the project more cohesive.

Crabs in a Bucket

Justin Vernon applies his Midas touch, and Staples responds with fervor. The landscape is full of sweeping turns and abstract vocal splices, which mirrors the frenetic but lucid pace in which Staples is moving. He’s offering up his perspective, and how a successful black man will always be met with adversity. It’s poignant, but not overwrought; never loses his sense of style or direction: [LISTEN]

Crabs in a Bucket

Big Fish

A smoked out water bong beat brings the senses back to the glorious g-funk era. The new breed steps up big, explaining how rap has changed his life. Gone are the days when the necessities were hard to come by and its place are the hardships of maintaining integrity in the face of fame and fortune. There is no shortage of drama, and the hope is that he’ll hold strong and make it out alive: [LISTEN]

Big Fish

Alyssa Interlude

An ode to Amy Winehouse and a chance to put things into perspective. He has great admiration for the late songstress, and it has him wondering about how self-destruction factors into the making of good art. Self-sacrifice doesn’t appear to be the formula for the level-headed Staples, but it does have him feeling nostalgic. It takes him to an innocent place, and he lets go for a brief moment: [LISTEN]

Alyssa Interlude

Love Can Be…

Staples takes a jab at the jokey lifestyles of the rich and famous. The novelty of the beat mirrors the inner workings of the circus, and Staples doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is; life is an endless sea of green lights and every avenue a playground to do as they please. It’s a crafty move, but still a step outside Staples’ range. He’s diluting his best attributes for aesthetic purposes: [LISTEN]

Love Can Be

745

The smoothed out beat with the rubbery bassline once again brings him back to the fabled g-funk era. It’s a seamless fit and a sound he sounds wickedly comfortable in. He’s telling the story of a player who has perverted love so much that he can’t hold a healthy relationship anymore. He’s been infected and skewed in such a way that has left him immune to the good stuff. Crafty and well told: [LISTEN]

745

Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium

Rain falls and thunder stretches across a dark and menacing sky. Staples emerges from the destruction for an interlude that reflects his view on life and the futile nature in which it unfolds. An idea that finds its origins in his hometown: [LISTEN]

Ramona Park

Yeah Right

Crunchy beats clear the nonsensical BS out of the way. Staples is Godzilla, mercilessly stomping on the heads of phony pretenders. It doesn’t matter who it is; it could be the most hyped rapper in the game or a beautiful woman looking to get a little closer. He’s questioning everything, the whole facade knowing that it doesn’t take much to penetrate the paper thin personas out there: [LISTEN]

yeah right

Homage

Glitchy beats and angular rhythms is his way of experimenting. He’s pushing himself, but so hard that he’s not letting the sound develop on its own. The theme is that he won’t let anyone hold him back, and that he’s going to live his life unencumbered; free from outside opinion. The song has been sung many times before and dressing it up with sonic knick-knacks doesn’t mask its redundancy: [LISTEN]

Homage

SAMO

Menacing right from the jump, a lunge for the jugular; his way of ending the fight in one punch. Tired of the same old thing, he’s throwing the gauntlet challenging lyricists in order to separate the real from the fake. He’s seething, his aggression mimicking that of an active volcano. He’s willing to crush his opponent, squash their reputation and take his girl in the process. A flex: [LISTEN]

SAMO

Party People

Anti-social and introspective. He’s not about the party life, instead the type to delve into his own psyche to see what exists. It’s not so esoteric that it can’t be relatable, and Staples makes sure not to sugarcoat anything. He’s showcasing his ability to take a difficult situation and make it a learning experience. He’s doing his part to lift the taboo of talking about mental health: [LISTEN]

Party People

BagBak

The beat drives forward like an out of control tank leaving no time for Staples to overthink anything. He’s moving a mile a minute and letting his thoughts spew out like a geyser. With no filter to dilute his ideas, he reveals among other things his desire to save his future wife from a basic existence. In that sense he’s hoping that his actions will give way to a loyal appreciation: [LISTEN]

BagBak

Rain Come Down

A closing chapter that looks to encapsulate his creative state of mind. He’s being cocky and brash, exhibiting the type of moxie needed to establish longevity. In his world you have to be tough and willing to handle heat on your own without running to the police. That life is what gives him that edge, and his handling of it reflects his versatility. He’s seen the worst and can’t be shook: [LISTEN]

Rain Come Down