If you dip back into older mixtapes from Vince Staples, especially something like Winter in Prague, the shift in tempo on Big Fish Theory might give you whiplash. The squawks are sometimes followed by gunshots - more sonic signatures from those LA neighbourhoods.
Last year's "Prima Donna" EP shattered that illusion by presenting two contrasting sides of his personality. So far Staples has displayed his knack for writing solid hip-hop tracks with groove, memorable impact and hard, but cool flow. The project slows down to a decrepit durge on "SAMO", which finds the homegrown lethality giving way to his newfound decadence-he deadpans about high-priced couches before letting slip that "partner and 'em got bodies".
Staples" first full-length release since 2015's Summertime "06, the record features guest spots from Damon Albarn, A$AP Rocky, Rick Ross, Jimmy Edgar and SOPHIE as well as Kendrick Lamar and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Just watch his Pitchfork "Over/Under" video.
Not only does Vince Staples's hotly anticipated album Big Fish Theory arrive today, but his latest collaboration with Sprite is also here. Skittering opener "Crabs in a Bucket" sets the tone early, with Staples packing words into every crack and crag in the song's jumpy beat. "They don't ever wanna see the black man eat/Nails in a black man hands and feet", he sneers. I love Kendrick, Drake, and Future as much as (maybe more than) the next person, but there's a reason young people are still ending their nights dancing to chestnuts like "Hypnotize", "The Way You Move", and "Gold Digger". Rolling along underneath is party music, drawn from United Kingdom garage and grime.
"Big Fish" goes a little more standard hip-hop with braggadocios lyrics, mainly about "balling" and neon beats, however there's still a shade of unusual, with the occasional warped beat sneaking it's way in. It's a furious and sad party record that you can dance to, often.
And while Vince's approach to both music, and the giant sales machine created to promote the product to the public, is often described as "sincere", he's a bit too fond of keeping it real to play up the role, which is what makes the ad in question as refreshing as the product out pushes. "How I'm supposed to have a good time when death and destruction's all I see?" he wonders on "Party People".
Uneasy times call for uneasy music. Naturally, it still ends in a gunshot.