Vince Staples’ Futuristic Hip-Hop Vision Comes Alive on Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples pushes the status quo in a major way on his futuristic club rap-infused sophomore album Big Fish Theory.
If you’ve ever watched a Vince Staples interview, insight and perception are two qualities that are immediately evident whenever he opens his mouth. The 24-year-old Long Beach, California native is wise beyond his years and has a profound understanding of the music industry that sets him apart from the majority of his peers.
That’s why his sophomore offering, Big Fish Theory, isn’t as much of a shock to system as it could have been. Despite serving as a significant sonic departure from his debut studio album, Summertime ‘06, Vince manages to stay in peak rap form while experimenting in unchartered waters. There is nothing rudimentary about the production or sound on Big Fish Theory and it feels very much akin to the fascinating musical detour Kendrick Lamar took on To Pimp a Butterfly.
It makes sense, really. Vince, much like Kendrick, is a student of music in all its forms and his creative drive allows him to work within genres that aren’t traditionally under the hip hop umbrella. Big Fish Theory, for instance,has undertones of EDM and house that feel foreign to most rappers, but the way in which Vince is able to weave his rhymes through the sea of futuristic club rap beats is impressive and quite compelling to say the least.
Kicking off with the ambient Kilo Kish-assisted “Crabs in a Bucket,” it’s immediately evident that there’s nothing conventional about the album’s beat selection and song structure. It’s a hip-hop dance party set in 2200. You can almost feel the lights flickering on and off at some underground lounge on Pluto.
On “Big Fish,” Vince constructs his most traditional hip hop offering on the album with an infectiously catchy chorus provided by Juicy J and stellar production from Christian Rich. The trap sound is amplified with a subtly placed water drip sample that makes the song feels like you’re listening to it underwater.
The Jimmy Edgar-produced “745” is a futuristic g-funk journey that finds Vince pondering girl problems while rolling around in his BMW 745. He’s getting money, he’s getting recognized, but he’s finding it more and more difficult to find love while his success accumulates. Sure, it’s a bit formulaic content-wise, but Vince’s candid delivery makes his youthful ignorance very believable.
It’s easy to take a look the song “Yeah Right” and see Kendrick Lamar’s verse as the real star of the song, but there is so much more layered complexity that makes it a masterfully crafted track. From the harsh metallic production handled by SOPHIE and Flume to a standout singing soliloquy by multi-talented Australian producer and singer Kučka — this song has single written all over it.
Big Fish Theory is an impressive body of work on all fronts. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, the album is something of a breeze through the futuristic framework Vince has put together. It’s different from anything he has ever worked on before, but in an age where rappers are progressively biting each other’s styles and flows, it’s refreshing to see someone bring an original spin on the genre that doesn’t compromise expert lyricism and shows it can co-exist inside bouncy dance melodies.