USA TODAY: WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO VINCE STAPLES, RAP'S UNSUNG HERO

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WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO VINCE STAPLES, RAP'S UNSUNG HERO

 

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Vince Staples is one of the best rappers in hip hop right now. So why aren't more people paying attention?

Staples, 23, has been on a steady ascent since 2010, when he guested on songs from Odd Future members Earl Sweatshirt (epaR) and Mike G (Moracular World), before recording his breakthrough mixtape Stolen Youth with Mac Miller two years later. Since then, he's been named to XXL magazine's coveted "Freshman Class" list, sold out shows on a headlining North American tour, and featured on songs with Schoolboy Q (Ride Out), Jhené Aiko (The Vapors) and Gorillaz (Ascension), whom he'll be joining on the road later this summer.

But traditional parameters of success have alluded the rapper. He has never had a single appear on the Billboard Hot 100, which is currently dominated by hip-hop heavyweights Kendrick Lamar (Humble), Future (Mask Off) and Childish Gambino (Redbone) who have crossed over into the mainstream. The highest he's charted on the Billboard 200 album chart is No. 39, with his Summertime '06 EP in 2015, and he has been passed over by the Grammy Awards and other major music honors.

His second album, Big Fish Theory (**** out of four), out now, encapsulates what makes him so potentially alienating to many, while also showcasing what a remarkable, vital talent he is. He trades in the woozy, sparse production of early fan favorites Blue Suede and Norf Norf for aggressive Detroit techno house beats, which sometimes threaten to drown out his restless, rapid-fire verses. The sonic 180 is wholly unique from anyone else in hip hop right now, as Staples raps over a hypnotic drum rhythm on album standout Party People, after trading bars with Lamar over a grimy bass line on the Sophie-produced Yeah Right.

The cover of Vince Staples' 'Big Fish Theory'

Many songs find the rapper mulling over relationships, but he in no way has lost his socially conscious streak. On lofty first single BagBak, he celebrates blackness while also acknowledging the dangers he and many others face because of it ("Pray the police don't come blow me down 'cause of my complexion"). He also gets political, calling for more African Americans in higher office ("Until the president get ashy, Vincent won't be votin' / We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in that Oval Office / Obama ain't enough for me, we only getting started").

Album opener Crabs in the Bucket similarly touches on racism, likening incarcerated black men to Jesus Christ. ("Nails in the black man, hands and feet / Put ‘em on a cross or you put ‘em on a chain / Lines be the same: ‘He don’t look like me"). Like Gorillaz's Humanz album earlier this year — which co-founder Damon Albarn envisioned as a party record for the end of the world — Big Fish Theory is Staples' most danceable release yet, but also his most dire. (“How I’m supposed to have a good time when death and destruction is all I see?”)

In a genre that has excelled at politically charged music this year, Staples stands above the rest of his rap peers as a necessary, continually evolving voice.

via USA Today.

 

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