Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment in our second ever “Reviews Through a Friend,” in which we review albums handpicked by our fellow Mid-American Culture contributors. Today, I’ll be reviewing Vince Staples’ 2017 album, Big Fish Theory.
In recent years, I’ve kind of drifted away from listening to a lot of rap/hip-hop music. Every now and then I’d listen to it, sure, but nowhere near as much as I used to. Occasionally, however, I’d hear a popular new rap song somewhere and like it quite a bit. This album, Big Fish Theory, was certainly one of those nice surprises.
The album has a gamut of features, ranging from Blur/Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn (“Love Can Be”), dreamy-art pop vocalist Kilo Kish (on several tracks, notably “Crabs in a Bucket” and “Homage), and modern rap king Kendrick Lamar (“Yeah Right”). These were the best features, but, unfortunately, a couple other features didn’t quite do it for me. These include A$AP Rocky’s seemingly pointless appearance on “Samo” and Ty Dolla Sign’s vocals on “Rain Come Down.” Something about his voice combined with the droning beat made that song come off as a bit boring. However, those are just minor appearances that don’t subtract too much from the album.
I really liked the surreal atmosphere the producers went for on this album. Songs like “Love Can Be,” “Alyssa Interlude,” and “Crabs in a Bucket” all have a trance-esque beat with psychedelic flows. There are also a few bangers on this record, including “Homage,” in which Staples brags about himself in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, “Big Fish,” which features the one and only Juicy J, and “Bagbak.” Staples’ flow is on point, especially in “745” and “Bagbak.” Also, I noticed repeated religious imagery throughout the album (“Big Fish,” “Love Can Be,” “745″).
There were only a couple songs I wasn’t too big on, and these were “Party People” and “Rain Come Down.” The former features a goofy sounding hook, which oddly juxtaposes the dark lyrical content, making the song come off as a bit bizarre. And, as I mentioned earlier, Ty Dolla Sign’s vocals didn’t do it for me on “Rain Come Down,” especially combined with an extremely slow beat. Neither one of these songs was that bad, though, and I’d definitely give this whole album another listen in the future. It’s certainly one of the best rap albums I’ve listened to in an awfully long time.
So, overall, Big Fish Theory was a very nice surprise. The psychedelic beats and vocals, beautiful flow and syllable control from Vince Staples, some nice features, and some unexpected changes of pace (“Alyssa Interlude,” “Ramona Park Is Yankee Stadium”) make Big Fish Theory one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. I gotta hand it to Vince and all of the other featured artists on Big Fish Theory for creating something that sounds truly original, and doesn’t hammer in the same repeated flows, lyrical content, and other stuff modern rap music is inundated with. If you are all tired of the same trite modern rap music, I recommend you give this album a shot. It’s an extremely unique record that touches on a variety of musical styles.
CORY’S RATING: 8/10
KEY TRACKS: “Alyssa Interlude,” “Love Can Be,” “745,” “Yeah Right,” “Homage,” “Bagbak.”
Thank you all so much for reading, and make sure you check out this week’s playlist featuring songs from the albums we’re reviewing. Also, make sure you read all the other reviews through a friend this week, as well as all the other content on the site. If you want us to do another reviews through a friend in the future, make sure you leave us a comment. See you all next time!