The quality of music that 2017 has provided to us halfway through the year has been outstanding. This year could go down as one of the best year’s in Hip-Hop history, or at least for this side of the millenium. Every week there has been something that has grabbed our attention, whether it’s Future dropping albums in consecutive weeks, Raekwon returning to his prime, Calvin Harris creating better collaborations than DJ Khaled, or Kendrick and Drake dropping quality projects just weeks apart. All of these moments have been great but this next one is going to surprise you: Vince Staples created the perfect album with Big Fish Theory.
I rarely use the word perfect when describing music or movies. I can admit that I’m a snob when it comes to media; everything has flaws. Also saying something is classic doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. For instance, I’m in the number of people that say JAY-Z’s The Black Album is classic but I will also tell you that it has flaws and isn’t a perfect album. To me the word perfect falls in line with something that’s beautiful. Like I said everything has flaws, but if you find something beautiful then you don’t even notice those imperfections. That person or body of work becomes beautiful and you accept it for what it does for you, making them/it perfect to you. Big Fish Theory travels down the electronic/EDM realm for production and while that might make it a flaw for some listeners I think this is where Vince Staples excels. The production for this album flows in a way that makes you feel like you’re in or near a body of water. It’s one thing that stood out upon my first few plays of the album.
In Hip-Hop it’s easy to get pigeonholed because of how fans react to your evolution. Artist growth is hindered by fans lack of acceptance to grow with the artist. Vince Staples doesn’t care what people think and to me this makes it easier for him to experiment in this capacity. He was able to take a concept like fame and put his spin on the up’s and down’s of celebrity without batting an eye to those who criticized him. ‘Crabs In A Bucket’ sounds like depression as Vince discusses the “crabs in a bucket” mentality of upcoming Hip-Hop artists. Kilo Kish, who makes many appearances on this album, sounds heavenly once she comes in on this opening record and puts everything at ease with her soft voice.
Vince proves he can do any type of record on Big Fish Theory. ‘Big Fish’ features Juicy J and is his take on a track about ballin’ with the best of them. This album experiments with sound multiple times but the bass lines are full of west coast life on every record. By far the saddest tracks on BFT are ‘Alyssa Interlude’ and ‘Ramona Park Is Yankee Stadium’, both ending in pain and tragedy. The former samples an interview from Amy Winehouse where she talks about the pain that love can cause, allowing Vince to drum up a short verse for whoever Alyssa may be. One of the best things about this album is upon your first listen you don’t know who’s on what track because the streaming track list didn’t show features. While Juicy J and Ty Dolla Sign were listed on the singles, ‘Big Fish’ and ‘Rain Come Down’, there are other guests that steal the scene throughout. Ray J makes an appearance on the bridge of ‘Love Can Be’, the aforementioned Kilo Kish has four guest features, and Kendrick Lamar appears on ‘Yeah Right’. Kendrick doesn’t play fair on Vince’s track, stealing the record by using multiple flows to dissect the topic at hand: our social media culture.
Vince Staples is one of the most creative acts in Hip-Hop right now thanks to this album. For an artist to take this big of a risk, essentially creating an EDM rap album, is like walking the fine line of your career. If the masses love it, you’re dubbed the next best thing. If they hate it, then you’re a “one-hit wonder” forever. Art is about being creative and taking risks. People won’t understand it because humans love routine and despise change. We compare everything because we feel the need for everything to have a label. Things that don’t have labels freak us out because we don’t know what to call it. We feel a need to put everything in a box but we’re told to think outside of the box. Big Fish Theory is what happens when you don’t care about labels and use your creativity to the fullest. We still have another half of 2017 but I think this album is going to make it onto a lot of the year end lists. Vince Staples put his life on display for us to watch and he succeeded in making a perfect album.
Repeatable: ‘Alyssa Interlude’, ‘745’, ‘Yeah Right’ feat. Kendrick Lamar, ‘Rain Come Down’ feat. Ty Dolla $ign
By Joe Coad