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The Summer Hip-Hop Trifecta (Part 1): Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory

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Kendrick Lamar is in a category of his own and DAMN. is definitely the big summer hip-hop album of 2017. I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been said which is why I want to write about what I consider to be the break-out summer hip-hop albums from BROCKHAMPTON, Tyler the Creator and Vince Staples.

For Part 1, I’m going to review Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory (2017): Vince is from North-Side Long Beach and hit some mainstream appeal with his second album Summertime ’06. He released that album two years ago when he was 22. I am envious that he’s already accomplished so much and that feeling only grew with this new album as I could clearly see his rapid growth as an artist.

This album is most definitely a Hip-Hop album but Vince bends some of the genres’ conventions creating a sound which might not appeal all Hip-Hop listeners. It’s clear that techno and electronic music had a large influence on Vince while he was making the album. He incorporated a number of beats not normally rapped over. I found out while tracing some of the producers on the album that Techno and EDM originated from Detroit in the 80’s. It’s amazing to see the development of genres generally and to see Vince combining Hip-Hop and Techno music is an interesting evolution of the genres. I would be remiss to mention that I consider Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition one of the greatest albums in the past couple years. Danny Brown is from Detroit and Atrocity Exhibition was also a very experimental album. I’m speculating but I wouldn’t be surprised that Atrocity Exhibition to Vince served as a reminder of what’s possible when genre conventions are manipulated.

For album reviews, I like to go through each song one by one with some small observations. I put a ‘+’ besides songs that are my favourite. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. There are some general critiques that Vince’s lyricism wasn’t the strongest which I’m inclined to agree. There are definitely some shortcomings to this album which prevent it from being elevated to the next level. But to me what Big Fish Theory represents is Vince experimenting and growing. I would bet that his next album will be more experimental and also more polished. The songs I would recommend listening to the most would be Crabs in A Bucket, Yeah Right, and Alyssa’s Interlude.

Crabs in A Bucket (+): The song starts with an atmospheric opening which is unusual for a hip-hop album. Vince doesn’t start rapping until almost a minute into the album. The final third of the song there’s a great breakdown that develops the beat. It’s clear from the get-go that Vince wants the listener to know that this isn’t going to be a normal Hip-Hop album. Big Fish This is a more traditional hip-hop song. The beat and Vince’s flow is similar to Norf Norf from Summertime ’06. I had a sense of build-up or tension for Vince to scream “North-side Long Beach” but he never does. This signals his development from his last album and a departure from his old style. He does end up saying his “catch phrase,” but only in passing and with no emphasis. There are sick bars and flow from Vince in this song.

Alyssa Interlude (+): I love this interlude; it might be one of my favourite ones of all time. Usually, interludes are just transitions between songs and rarely add another dimension to the album. But there are so many layers to this interlude. First, there’s the amazing combination of the beat and Amy Winehouse talking about her songwriting. Vince Staples was a huge fan of Amy Winehouse and the fact that he used essentially just her voice as the structure for this interlude demonstrates the importance of her to him. Vince’s spoken word comes with another layer of a bass adding another line to the beat. The acceptance of depression and confronting it. The subject matter of what Amy Winehouse is talking about is also the perfect transition to the next song which fulfills the basic function of the interlude. But the way Vince does it adds so much more. There’s something haunting about Amy Winehouse admitting herself that she is a self-destructive person that seems to haunt the rest of the album. Love Can Be… There’s definitely more of a dance/techno beat on this song. I’m not the biggest fan of the intro but when the song actually kicks in the build-up has a decent pay-off. Probably one of the weaker songs on the album as its fairly repetitive.

745: A more traditional hip-hop song. Vince shows of the different flows he is capable of. Just a song with a sick beat and nice flows. Interesting end to the song linking to the interlude. Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium Changing to the second half of the album. Just an interlude.

Yeah Right (+): This hook is a bit repetitive but the beat goes hard. There’s a very interesting bridge from Kućka which inverts everything Vince is talking about in his verses. This song also features Kendrick which most people probably didn’t know about because Vince didn’t list him on the track-listing. Vince didn’t list any of his feature artists on the album tracklist and the pay-off is that listeners get a surprising and amazing Kendrick verse. Kendrick has this line: “Hangin’ on my last four kills for the highlights”. Respect for the great and I’m really happy the two artists worked together.

Homage (+): Interesting beat opening. There’s a really tough beat to flow on top. Vince’s deliver for this line: “I’m on a new level / I am too cultured and too ghetto” is amazing. This song bangs.

SAMO: Experimental beat to rap over. Slower flow. Reminds me of Shabazz Palaces.

Party People: Really great bass intro. Nice flow from Vince on a very minimalist beat. “Human issues, too strong for tissues / False bravado all masked by wealth” Interesting reverb/echo on Vince’s voice for the chorus. Very atmospheric beat.

BagBak (+): I really like this beat the low bass keeps pushing the tempo. This is the most dancy/up-beat song with still a heavy push.

Rain Come Down: Slower song. I like the chorus by Ty Dolla $ign.

Jing Bo Yu is a 2L and the Culture Editor for Juris Diction

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