If you don’t know who Vince Staples is by now, you might as well join Dennis Rodman on his next trip to North Korea. The Long Beach rapper has been on an existential tear since his 2014 Def Jam debut Hell Can Wait. He’s also released some of the more well-received hip-hop projects in recent memory with Summertime ’06 in 2015 and the fabulous, experimental EP Prima Donna a year later. Staples has appeared on the tracks of many other prominent artists, too, like Gorillaz, Earl Sweatshirt, ScHoolboy Q and Childish Gambino, and scored a professional relationship with Sprite after his infamous lyric on 2015 hit “Norf Norf” and appearing in the 2015 breakout film “Dope.”
Though Staples self-proclaims he’s the coldest nigga breathing (C.N.B), his past successes have culminated to skyscraping hype, giving him potential G.O.A.T-level status that becomes more realized with each successive nightfall. Staples’ recent release in studio album Big Fish Theory is a result of this evolution that proves Staples is the “big fish” of rap today.
Big Fish Theory is a staunch and hostile audit of his relationship with rap, and where rap lies in general. Staples has a lot to say, and the snide, rabid beats contributed by electronic producers like Flume, SOPHIE and Ray Brady give him the appropriate outlets. Staples sticks to his guns while experimenting with new sounds, borrowing additional strength from familiar vocalists Kilo Kish, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and Ty Dolla $ign.
Staples’s second studio album is full of virulent jams that pack codes of concision and creation, like an overcrowded fish bowl. His three pre-released singles, ”BagBak,” “Big Fish” and “Rain Come Down” make appearances on the album, adding light patches of sea-salt flavored bangers. The album’s hardest beat is arguably the ninth track, “Samo,” which features a thick, swirling bass, icy hats and a robotic melody that accompanies Staples’s creamy flow and rich lyricism. The chorus features A$AP Rocky’s short-changed voice and additional vocals by Kilo Kish.
On the Jimmy Edgar-produced track “745,” Vince tiptoes around a classic Detroit techno fused beat, using nihilism to muse about his tricky relationships with women. “745” refers to a 2000s model of BMW’s luxury sedan 7-series, a car that Vince is quite accustomed to. Staples shows theme repetition, rapping “All my life I want waves at my front door … I just want seashores/ All my life pretty women done told me lies” in the first verse and “Adam, Eve/ Apple trees/ Watch out for snakes baby/ Open streets/ Ocean breeze/ We should get away, baby” on the late bridge.
The other major highlight includes the Kendrick Lamar-featured and Flume-produced “Yeah Right.” The husky bass that lines the song proves to be a mean beat for both California artists to unload thick-bodied bars. In the first verse, Staples questions if rappers live the lives they advertise: “Is you well paid? Are your shows packed?/ If your song played, would they know that?” he asks. Kung Fu Kenny follows Staples with one of the hardest features all year, rapping “Swang like new Dana Dane, I ride dirty/ Paid like two Damon Wayans, retire early/ Fade like shadows, corrallin’ the cattle/ A b*****’s decision for you is narrow.”