Tuesday 18 July 2017

Review of 'Big Fish Theory' by Vince Staples

WARNING: These beats go hard. Proceed with caution.

My first exposure to Vince was his 2014 EP Hell Can Wait. To this day, my headphones still haven’t recovered from the seismic banger that was ‘Blue Suede’. In fact, I think that bass disrupted by gut movement so much that it gave me IBS.

Since then, the Long Beach rapper has continued to be active with new material - including notorious single ‘Norf Norf’- as well as making guest appearances on seemingly every album released in the last couple years. Now he’s back with a new album Big Fish Theory - and the beats make Hell Can Wait look tame.

When the bass drops on Big Fish Theory

Experimental meanderings into shuffling garage (‘Crabs in a Bucket’, ‘Love Can Be..’) and twinkling g-funk (‘745’) kick the album’s instrumental palette off to an exciting, if not slightly messy, start. By the time outlandish live recording ‘Ramona Park in Yankee Stadium’ comes along, you start to wonder what direction Vince is taking you in. But it seems he’s simply biding time for the gauntlet of bass-heavy bangers making up the backend. If the metallic clinking of ‘Yeah Right’ doesn’t shake you up (not to mention the surprise special guest towards the end), then ‘SAMO’ will certainly suck you into its depths, oozing ominously along like a river of toxic waste. 

Vince doesn’t try to match the stupendous energy of these beats, but doesn’t need to. His shtick is his nonchalant delivery as if recording each flow whilst reclining back on a hammock. When the outrageously loud beats roll in, it almost feels as if he’s imperturbably watching the world get destroyed with lyrics such as ‘death and destruction all I see’ coming out with an unnerving calmness over the psycho-trap backdrop of ‘Party People’.  

I almost wish Vince has embraced this mood fully, rather than letting his lyrics often trail off into template gangsta rap rambling. Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that these songs are still ridiculously fun. Staples knows the staple ingredients (hooray, puns) that give his music its unique thrills – laid-back flows over in-your-face beats – and he’s pushing that sound to new extremes. If he sticks to a theme, he could be formidable.