GQ: VINCE STAPLES LEAVES THE COMMENTARY BEHIND ON BIG FISH THEORY
The rapper, who's become known for his sharp, funny talking-head opinions, makes an unusual choice on his new album: letting the music speak for itself.
For the past two years or so, 23-year-old Long Beach-born rapper Vince Staples has become something of a talking head. He's appeared on The Daily Show, Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, ESPN's First Take, and even in the pages of GQ, always serving up hilarious commentary on sports, culture, and music through his signature dry wit. But given the fact that Staples has not released new music since last August's Prima Donna EP, and hasn't dropped a new full-length album since 2015, Vince Staples the persona has to some degree overshadowed Vince Staples the person, and the latter is someone worth listening to in today's crowded music climate. His new album, titled Big Fish Theory, which is out today, should shift the narrative back to Staples' true calling as one of the best rappers alive today.
Unlike Summertime '06, which many publications (perhaps overzealously) lauded as a return to gangsta rap, Big Fish Theory stays on an electronic, house-inspired path throughout its brisk 12-song line-up. The opener, "Crabs in a Bucket," immediately sets the tone for the new sound. It's a skittish track that immediately makes you feel like you're in a hurry, and was produced in part by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. "Let 'em pop shit, give me some drugs to go pop with / Need white women at the shows unconscious," he raps on the song. On "Yeah Right" he raps in a series of questions, asking "How the thug life? How the love life? / How the workload? Is your buzz right? / Do the trap jump? Is the plug right? / Got your head right? Boy, yeah right." His sarcasm is sharper when he uses to deliver actual commentary instead of jokes; he's aware of his place not only in the music industry but in modern society.
At a time when so many other musicians today entertain delusions of grandeur—calling their fan bases "movements" and talking their creative influences to death—Staples has remained level-headed. He calls rapping his job, even if it's a job he loves. He seems uninterested in creating additional narratives around his music, refusing several times over the past few weeks to explain his songs to an interviewer. (Although in a recent interview with Pitchfork, he said, "In 10 years, when I’m washed up, I’m gonna come back with a book deal and we gonna explain all the albums and tell the story.") For now, fans will enjoy and interpret his music in their own ways, and there's something refreshing about that.