Why you haven’t heard it

Vince Staples’ second studio album from 2017, whose eruptus songs clock in at a run-time of just over 35 minutes, is a bit of an unforeseen gut punch, but one that leaves you seeing stars in all the right ways. Big Fish Theory is a sharp, slick, and beautifully unconventional rap album.

Staples doesn’t rap like most artists you’ll hear on the radio, nor does he take the typical approach to instrumentals and style—which shows the best of his talent. Unfortunately, this leaves him often overlooked—at least in the mainstream genre.

Why it might be tough to get through

On Big Fish Theory, Staples toys with the best of electronic and rap music to create his masterpiece, which might sound unappealing to some at first. Admittedly, rap and electronic music are somewhat polar opposites when it comes to musical genres—but, I believe that this is what makes Big Fish Theory such an invigorating, and gripping listen.

Staples also deals with some heavy social commentary on Big Fish Theory—jumping from anti-black police brutality, to the struggles of fame, to themes of suicide, and mental illness. The album is brutally honest, which might be tough for some to swallow.

Why you should listen to it anyway

Rather than just mixing elements of rap and electronic music, Staples gives birth to a genre of his own. It almost feels like he’s destined to be rapping over jerking and twitching electronic beats rather than the basic trap-loop which might be dominating your friend’s playlists.

On the flip side, it also feels like these intricately produced electronic instrumentals, put together by the likes of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Flume, were designed for no other rapper than Staples.

In a genre quickly becoming defined by set formulas, Big Fish Theory is the rush of fresh air rap music desperately needs.

Fun facts

  • Staples got his start with California-based rap group Odd Future, which gave birth to other major talents such as Frank Ocean, Tyler, the Creator, and Earl Sweatshirt.
  • Big Fish Theory was Pitchfork’s seventh best album of 2017, and second best rap album (behind Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.—of course).
  • Staples’ Twitter account is a must follow. He regularly calls out critics in the most hilarious ways. 

Best lines and songs

“Eyes can’t hide your hate for me/Maybe you was made for the Maybelline/Spent so much tryna park the car/Barely got a tip for the maître d.” (“745.”)

“Just crashed a sports car/So much for fast life.” (“Love Can Be…”)

“Deja vu from my bayside view/I see black cats in the daytime too/I see black cats on the daytime news/With handcuffed wrists and their skin turned blue.” (“Party People.”)