Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory, 2017
Signed up the 12/07/2017Treading New Waters: A Look At The Daring "Big Fish Theory"
"I am on a new level
I am too cultured and too ghetto"
It's easy to forget Vince Staples the ever evolving artist. The online personality and knack for funny, insightful observations about almost everything seems to be more revered than anything he has done musically. It's unfortunate as the Ramona Park Legend constantly subverts expectations and delivers compelling, uncompromising pieces of music. "Summertime '06" is monochromatic, dead pan coming of age tales which share little in common with the vibrant meditation on celebrity culture that is 'Prima Donna'. With 'Big Fish Theory', this might be the most unflinching, forward thinking leap yet.
"Won't no label have me in limbo
Too much tempo, in Richard Prince mode"
Opting to not use the regular roaster of producers one has associated with his music, this collection of songs finds Staples experimenting with white washed electronic music which is fairly popular/lucrative in Europe and is reminiscent of the early 2000's. The backdrop is mostly provided by acts like Sophie, Flume and Zack Sekoff. The production reimagines some forms of black music, new & old. It's 2 step dance music that actively plays around with tempo. Tracks build up slowly, unexpectedly up the ante and melodically fade. All of it comes off as layered as they take a play out of Kanye West's book(whose belief that the human is the most powerful instrument is well documented) and use a variety of artists' voices to add colour to their compositions without taking center stage.
The album is mostly an elaborate look at where the artist is at in life, how identity affects him and how he's perceived in popular culture. Playing out in two parts, the first half tries to make sense of the ups and downs of the pleasures of everyday living. Whether it's love, minor success or the money that comes with it, there's always a nuanced approach to the topics. The lines this time around are often secondary and economical yet delivered at a newly found break neck pace.
'Crabs In The Bucket' kicks proceedings and draws inspiration from UK subgenres as it's grudgingly lunges forward and darkly sets the tone. Juicy J assisted single is as celebratory as things get as the big fish reminiscences fondly about harder times while thankful for finally swimming out of dangerous waters. A beautiful tender moment timely arrives in 'Alyssa Interlude' which opens up with Amy Winehouse vulnerably talking about her relationships and ends with nostalgic crooning to Temptations. Crown jewel, 745, bitterly sums up the album's sentiments towards romantic love over nasty, hypnotic bass synths and twinkling keys.
"How am I supposed to have a good time when death and destruction is all I see"
The second half is where the album truly shines. Building from the old template of Detroit techno/Chicago House, it's abrasive, menancing anti establishment music propelled by window shattering bass. 'Bagbak' envisions black supremacy over stuttering drrums and piercing hi hats as it rejects hindering religion, rallies against gentrification and advocates for a black woman president. 'Yeah Right' hard as nails, industrial feel fits perfectly with Vince and Kung Fu Kenny's shredding of the state of rap stardom. 'Party People' is straight up rave but one just can't ignore the dark thoughts put on full display. Sometimes, all you can do is try and dance the anguish of being black & disfranchised away in underground, strobe light filled clubs
While some of the music comes off as underdeveloped, Vince elevates it constantly with his intelligent writing and diverse skill set. Like a fish in a bowel, he stays vigilant throughout, freely moving through all types of human emotions and sounds. The world is doomed, Staples is well aware but that doesn't stop him from trying to make sense of the present, better his current surroundings and imagine an intriguing future.
Signed up the 06/06/2017
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