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big fish theory tracklist

Release Date: 23 June 2017

Genre: Hip-Hop.

Label: ARTium/Blacksmith/Def Jam

Length: 36:04

Written by Jabir McMillian

Introduction:

“We making future music….this is my Afro-futurism.” – Vince

When you promote an album with this choice of words, you’re going to be held to some outlandish standards. But at this point in his career, Long Beach rapper and internet persona, Vince doesn’t “bagbak” from setting the bar high. After enjoying constant elevation in attention from Odd Future features to Mac Miller putting him on to breaking out with his universally acclaimed debut Summertime ’06, Vince has reached a point where the world wants to hear his opinion on them. Being one of the most articulate and ever-observant emcees in the game, most compare him in stature to his California contemporary, Kendrick Lamar. Currently hailing a 89 on Metacritic, we will break it down here and see if the Ramona Park vet is truly coming for the throne or not.

Vince-Staples_VCB_-Brandon-Artis-Photography-5-e1480533403157

Crabs In a Bucket – Right off the bat, you got this track speaking on a topic all black people, especially ones from small communities know about. The crab mentality. For y’all that don’t know, it speaks on a group of people in a community ruining each other in an attempt to elevate out their squalor. Usually results in everyone failing. Vince speaks on this topic not only from his observation of black people interacting each other, but how black people have been conditioned by the “majority” (see: Willie Lynch theory). It’s a permanent fixture in the world we live in, and Vince handles it with a quick-tempo, straight to the point, no ducking around (imagine that was said w/o any level of corniness). BTW, the production is real drum dependent like your usual hip-hop, but it meshes synths and “beebo EDM” streaks. If that doesn’t sound good to you, well tough tiddays…. Rate: 9/10

Big Fish – The lead single and titular track, I gave this a fairly in-depth review when it dropped. They didn’t add any new bells and whistles here. For those who didn’t get to peep, the link should be here & I’ll even give you the most notable takeaways for me. Features here aren’t meant to be standouts (for the most part), just a collection of brushes used for the artist to work. Juicy J puts in work with a simple hook to emphasize Vince’s current stature, every feature works to build the man we’re listening to. I’m not (and wasn’t) the biggest fan of this track but it rides. Another bouncy dance/club type production. Rate: 6.5/10

Alyssa Interlude – I looked all over the internet bruh. All over. I don’t know who the H-E-Double Joe Budden is Alyssa. But what I do know is this song opens with an Amy Winehouse sampled interview. The content she speaks on refers to songs about break-ups, about the separation between her and her ol boy, and how that just stuck with her mentally. Vincent later interpolates that with a The Temptations sample, crooning his own bars along with David Ruffin playing the back. It all muddies together to a puddle of nostalgia, where we see Vince in a lower light emotionally, not even necessarily romantically, then we see him very often. Romance will be the link between the bridge and the next one however. Rate: 8/10

Love Can Be – Alright, first off, these features. You got Kilo Kish, one of the best young, not only women, but artists period. Damon Albarn, known rockstar legend, worked with Vince on the opener to his last Gorillaz album. And the great, suave, immortalized Ray J, who Vince apparently considers “top 5 West Coast all time”. Impressive praise. On this song, the EDM is quite spastic, which results in a sonic vibe that feels like Flubber bouncing off the walls. It’s not always there, but when it does, it completely envelops the drums and wailing additions. Thematically, this song touches on the step after break-up: moving on. If you were here for the SZA review, you’d know how many ways or times once can approach this process, and Vince and Co. really just go foot on the gas and steamroll over these emotions. I personally like the approach. Rate: 8/10

745 – Even though the core of this production is mainly electronic with your usual hip-hop drums thrown in, there’s a few moments where you have notable switch ups, and this might be the biggest (or longest) example. We’re immediately met with this thumping, slap-heavy future G-funk sound that Vince surfs over. Topically, the subject of love once again peaks out, and once again, it’s not in a positive light. Vince has strived for the better materialistic things in Long Beach, but one thorn in his side is the hopeless, deteriorating link-up with his gyal. He even compares his hometown with the Garden of Eden, and instead of being forced out due to the harsh cons of love, he beats God to the punch, and rejects the false perfect world. Even though everything I said makes this track appear quite deep, it truly isn’t something I find too captivating, especially with it following the two prior more deep-seated tales. I won’t come back for the song itself, but that production will be stuck in my head for a minute. Rate: 6/10

Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium – The title and the content of the track mainly refer to the type of Crips Vince saw in his area as a kid. The “Naughty Nasty Gangsta Crips”, who are basically your average New Yorkers wardrobe (and specifically hat-wise), but based in Cali. Vince remembers back to his time as a jit and feels some link to the Big Apple through these guys, but in moreso of a negative way. The scope of his life is truly marginalized as he realizes New York doesn’t care about those Crips or his life. I can’t really truly give a reading on what his song means to me and I’m just giving a general interpretation on the content. Certainly the least RELATABLE song topically for me. Rate: 6.5/10 (Don’t look on this one too much)

Yeah Right – So we’re back to the oddball production, but understand it’s perfectly fine here. Vince and KING KENDRICK fly over the Transformer-esque screams and severe bass knocks. The production is fantastic, but the raps might be even more standout. Vince touches on the contrived clichés that infest the rap industry. He points a finger directly in the rap game’s fight and directly doubts the necessity of everything they’re doing. If Vince’s method is by belittling the faults of his fellow artists, Kendrick disregards the talking and puts em down with an iron fist. In once again awarding us with his breakneck, viscous flow, we are regaled with Kendrick’s rough upcoming and how his current status is REAL, what he says is from THE HEART. You other rappers just can’t compare with that. Track of the album so far from me. Rate: 9.5/10

Homage – A sonnet of success. That is what this song is. If you think Vince’s rise to stardom has been insanely fast, just know it’s not enough for him. He wants MORE. And he specifically points out his avenues of talent that deserve even more attention (filmmaking, taste, etc). A song like this gives you insight into the drive of an artist, and Vince probably has more than your favorite rapper. Rate: 7.5/10

SAMO – We get a Jean-Michel Basquiat reference in the title, in case you wanted to know it’s significance (it’s really just a combination of Same Ol). All this directly links to the content of course, Vince sees rap as an art and exposes these guys doing the same ol thing in rap. They’re content exploiting the culture for financial gain, while doing numbers and moving units. It’s disgusting and degrading for rap and good on Vince for shouting this out. Again, unfortunately, this song doesn’t move me much at all. I appreciate more Kilo Kish as always, and the production is quite grating (in a semi-positive way). Won’t come back to this one. Rate: 5/10

Party People – The beat, title, and even the same bars are INTENTIONALLY giving you a curve ball. Imagine a guy at a hyped party sitting around, refusing to drink or do blow, but still enjoys the general aroma. That’s Vince here. Vince has his own personal issues that he refuses to snuff out with dank inhibitions. He’s a sober guy. The issues lies in the fact that some issues just needed to be treated with, and Vince’s coping mechanisms are simply seem to be out of options here. I think at this point, I’ve just been worn down by the EDM thing for an entire project, this is my 4th time listening to the project thru and thru and I don’t believe the production and the up-tempo should’ve been as frequent as it was, I’m sorry. When I go back and listen to “Atrocity Exhibition”, I need a Rolling Stone for every Ain’t It Funny. THERE’S TOO MUCH AIN’T IT FUNNYS ON THIS ALBUM. The tempo is just too much, it’s not sonically interesting after a while. Also, go listen to Atrocity Exhibition if you don’t understand that reference, it takes topics like this song and knocks it out of the solar system. Rate: 5.5/10

BagBak – I know I just said a lot about how I felt about the tone and all that and all this, but on what is basically the last high-strung joint here, it works. It fits. I’m not exactly sure what makes one song work for me and what makes one doesn’t, but Vince hits some pretty relatable chords for me. Wanting to rise through the ranks to the top, but not see everybody’s intrusive faces when I get there, that’s generally how I envision life. We don’t all wanna be in the music videos, some of us just want to be in the building to witness magic happen, you know? Anyway, you get a rebellious Vince telling the stans, telling the big wigs, telling even the SYSTEM, bag back, get out my face, I’m not playing by your games, on some #BBB prime Lavar Ball ish. Respect. Rate: 7/10

Rain Come Down – Think of the desert in Breaking Bad, but like night. That’s how desolate and barren the atmosphere is with this somewhat simplified instrumental and CONCERNED Ty Dolla $ign hook. There’s a lot of emotion and passion in his voice here, which fits the 3 verses we get here. Apparently, the hook creates 3 different scenarios, a triple-entendre if you will. “The rain” seems to refer to bullets, broads, and bills (as well as actual rain, but that isn’t assonance at all). Vince has depicted his memories where he experienced women getting shot down, women that have rained down upon him, and the rain he’s given back to these women in strip clubs. All of it sort of fits under this umbrella carried by a guy just living in a bleak dead-end environment. Quite the closer even though it might be topically his broadest song on the entire joint. Rate: 7.5/10

Conclusion: 

I can’t say it enough. This is an album everybody should listen to. Many have listened to it, and came away with the opinion that it’s pretty damn close to a classic. And that’s okay. Music is subjective. But it’s not quite subjective enough for me to wonder how much is too much, you smell me? It’s just too much electronic man. The album gets stale after a while, and even though individually, you’re getting some iconic level production, I myself can’t even appreciate it in the context of the album. Vince gives you a lot of words, but Vince doesn’t give you a lot of presentation here. Kendrick did more with his voice in one verse than Vince did in an entire album. Speaking of, I really liked all the features, and Kilo’s addition really helped me not get tired of the album in the first half, she’s so soothing. I feel like I’m knocking this joint for the wrong reasons, so I’ll tell you what I did like. I think it was a good enough sequencing of songs. The length was about as good as possible for the obviously minimal levels of change-up Vince can give you vocally. Features were fantastic, wish there was more that actually got spot light honestly. Production is some of the wildest you’ll hear on an album this year. I guarantee you that. Go listen and please educate me where I might be wrong, I’d love to be given a different insight. But for now… Overall Album Rating: 7/10

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