Album Review: Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory (2017 LP)

LA Clippers fan Vince Staples set the rap game alight with his debut album Summertime ’06. The captivating conscious hip-hop album left fans satisfied, yet hungry for a new project. Enter Prima Donna; the more experimental album which was rather divisive for Vince Staples fans. However, the experimentalist in Vince wouldn’t stop there, as fans had no idea of what was next for the Long Beach rapper.

Big Fish Theory is an experimental journey, which features EDM inspired production from Australian artists Flume and Kučka. The release of the single “Big Fish” was met with high critical and mainstream acclaim. The overly catchy and funky track captivated listeners with its polished production and memorable chorus. The hype surrounding “Big Fish” slowly but surely morphed into hype for Big Fish Theory. Unsurprisingly, Vince Staples nailed it. The delivery, production and experimentalism are all exemplary and most importantly, the album is cohesive. The cohesiveness of an album of this variety is important, as it could potentially come off sounding unfinished and slightly misconfigured. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and Vince’s sophomore album was a pleasantly structured follow-up.

The opening tracks “Crabs in a Bucket” and “Big Fish” are two of the least experimental songs on Big Fish Theory. Vince Staples’ delivery on the two songs bring some power over beats that otherwise would have been lacking. Not to say that the beats were unimpressive however, the production of the two are immense, but Vince’s vocal performances improve the instrumentals thusly. The message on “Crabs in a Bucket” could potentially be of the West Coast rap scene. According to Vince, West Coast rappers will try to pull their adversaries and companions down in order to achieve their goal, like crabs trapped inside a bucket. “Love Can Be…” has, by far, the most undeniably funky beat on the album, with writing credits from Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn and surprisingly, Ray J. Following this is the more relaxed “745”, which sees a major style switch up from the songs prior.

The most hard-hitting and rugged song “Yeah Right” shines, lyrically and instrumentally. Production from Flume, Kučka and Sophie was a key sign that this track was going to be a star. Also, features from Kendrick Lamar never disappoint. The cold ending to “Yeah Right” lead to the cold opening of “Homage”. The expeditious track keeps the album on track and further adapts to the stylistic choices of the album.

The opening of “SAMO” puts the listener in a mindset of dread with an extremely eerie beat. Despite not sounding like any of the other tracks on Big Fish Theory, “SAMO” still finds its own identity. Disappointingly, Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky garnered a writing credit on the song, yet didn’t feature. “Party People” is one of the most danceable songs, along with the proceeding song “BagBak”. The closing track on the album, “Rain Come Down” featuring Ty Dolla $ign is a very well produced song with great lyrics, delivery and vocal performances from both men involved.

The whole idea of the actual Big Fish Theory is that a person could achieve big things and success, but since they are stuck in an encapsulating area or ideal, like prison, mindset, labels, mental illness or even an unhealthy relationship, akin to a fish in a bowl, they will only grow in accordance with their limits. Using Vince as an example, if he is labelled as a “rapper”, then he isn’t likely to grow past the label and onto bigger things, music wise. This was the statement that Vince was trying to make on this album.

The music on “Big Fish Theory” is more than just hip-hop/rap, it is EDM, Alternative, House and other genres rolled into one. In short, it’s music. Many may lump rap into a different category than music itself, if that was the case, this would see Vince Staples escaping the label and hereby disproving the Big Fish Theory. Not only is the whole album’s musically stylistic choices in accordance with a bigger picture, but the genuine quality of the music provided is going to be hard for any rapper in the game to counter.

Review Score: 8.8 out of 10 

Big Fish Theory is out now.