Monday, June 19th, 2017

Vince Staples – Big Fish

He’s on a boat…


Ashley John: “You wake up. You see your mom go to work. You go to school. You come home. You hate your life some more.” In 2015, Vince Staples talked to Frannie Kelly and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on Microphone Check about the trappings of circumstance, of recognizing a gap but not being able to cross it. Staples’s music is steeped in this stinging discomfort and backed by a constant apathy. This is Staples’s thesis: there is no right or wrong, just the churning bass of one song after another. Juicy J loops in and out while Staples zip zags his pace but sounds unimpressed with himself throughout. He’s accepted the secret that we try to keep from ourselves — that there is no sequential pattern of correct choices, no escaping ourselves. There is no up, down, or through. Only persisting. 

Joshua Copperman: Even down to the technical team of Mark “Spike” Stent and Chris Gehringer, more known for working on Madonna and Harry Styles albums than rap, this is as bold a pop move as any previously-underground rapper has taken. But enough about the minutiae; Juicy J’s hook is clear evidence of this push for the mainstream, as it anchors some typically morbid storytelling from Staples. That said, Staples is also more than adept at the whole straightforward-rap thing — quotable lines like “Another story of a young black man/Tryna make it up out that jam, god damn” and “the Sharks make me wanna put the hammer to my head,” as well as the callbacks to previous songs, show his versatility. “Big Fish” doesn’t quite demonstrate the extent of his talents, but never feels like a concession either.

Alfred Soto: After last year’s Prima Donna EP boasted his most harrowing work to date, it depresses me that Vince Staples thinks he might cross over with a recherché Lil Jon-style beat and “I was up late night ballin'” hook that’s as germane to Staples’ work as a clarinet would be to Shawn Mendes. 

Maxwell Cavaseno: The Ras Kass of the 21st century finally gets to make his “Ghetto Fabulous,” but ends up closer to “Crawl Before You Ball.” I may not want to hear this kid even when he’s relatively in form, but nobody wants to hear this kid blindly chase after hits he could never sell.

Stephen Eisermann: Am I the only one who thinks this is the male version of “Fancy”? Vince has a smoother delivery and a bit more swag by my ear, but the similarities are vast. Both are tunes of self-appreciation, but where Iggy was dominated by the beat, here Vince commands the music and his delivery is sharp and slick. The touch of humility in the lyrics makes the song easier to connect to, and god damn is it hard not to want to move when hearing Vince flow to the rhythm. “Big Fish” is the perfect way to start a warm party night, and I’ll be playing it all summer long.

Ryo Miyauchi: Vince’s self-reference scans more as laziness than a victory lap for me, but that rubber-band snap of a beat makes this post-success reflection a lighter appetizer than his stomach-churning introspection as of late.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Having known (and not cared for) Vince Staples’s collaborations with James Blake, the first five seconds of “Big Fish” had me thinking that Blake was on board here and doing some throwback “Air & Lack Thereof“-type work. He’s not the producer for this though, and it’s clear when the ’90s deep house bass line enters, putting the track in the context of Kanye West’s “Fade.” But “Big Fish” isn’t that similar to “Fade,” and it’s because Vince doesn’t work like ‘Ye. On The Life of Pablo, Kanye strung together scattershot ideas and features like a game of Hip-Hop Mad Libs. Vince, on the other hand, is interested in making short, economical, and mostly prudent rap songs. The unsurprising end result is an actual fun dance track. Juicy J’s repetitious, braggadocious hook fits right in place too, helping to make clear that “Big Fish” is more a descendant of hyphy than anything else. Vince raps about the distance he feels between his past and current self, acknowledging that new problems have risen as a result of having money. But even with this on his mind, Vince spends a lot of “Big Fish” just being thankful (“Shoulda been dead broke, shoulda been chalked out”) and having fun (“In the foreign with the GPS addressed to your mama house”). If Vince ever wanted to make his own My Krazy Life, he might have a shot.

Reader average: [8.33] (3 votes)

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2 Responses to “Vince Staples – Big Fish”

  1. soooo def would’ve rated this lower after hearing it in the context of the whole album

  2. the album is… so bad