In 2015, while most were sliding headfirst into failure in the social playing field of DMs, Vince Staples began flirting with the promising fusion of electronic music and hip-hop with a feature on With You.’s “Ghost.”
Staples, who has spoken multiple times on his own sobriety, blesses the instrumental with a tale packed with piercing irony, “She loaded, I mean it, pills and potion/ Prescriptions and so more shit/ Heartbeat and tryna focus, I mean it, she a novice/ To those vices since that prom night/ She been lifeless off that Xan and that white.”
Over a beat intended for an audience and an environment prone to drug-induced euphoria, Staples uses his allotted time to describe why drugs actually kind of suck.
Yeah, Vince Staples is the best.
Two years later on Big Fish Theory, a 12-track marriage of the grittiest elements of hip-hop and the wildest worlds of electronic music, Staples’ simple flirtation has blossomed into masterful execution. “Crabs in a Bucket,” the album’s opener, features Justin Vernon production and vocals as well as Vince’s brutal frustration.
“Where’s your moxie? Ain’t you from Poppy?/ Young man, you not actin’ too cocky/
Prolly ’cause I’m feelin’ like the world gon’ crash/ Read a hundred somethin’ on the E-class dash/ If I’m feelin’ funny, guaranteed gon’ flash/ Cock back, blast, put ’em in a bag/ Prolly gon’ regret it in the retrospect/ Got a lot of problems I ain’t let go yet.”
Staples is paranoid, anxious and agitated, and a Kilo Kish outro at the song’s close sheds light on the source. In her closing lines, Kish sings, “Ever really crossed your mind, ever really crossed your mind, I ain’t never had no chance to breathe.” In Vince’s native Long Beach, poverty and crime results in little room for a grasp of air.
Fans wanting more of the classic elements that initially drew them to Staples have no need to worry. His hilarious bashfulness remains, referencing how his foreign car already has his GPS loaded with the address to “your momma’s house.” On “Alyssa Interlude,” which features audio from the documentary Amy, Staples remains a titan of the bluesy half-rap half-sing style that he previously utilized on standout tracks like “Summertime.”
The hits are there as well. “745” is guaranteed to stick to the brain, with Vince smoothly offering to pick his date up in a BMW series that matches the time. On “Yeah Right,” Staples forms his own 2012 Miami Heat by securing not only Flume and SOPHIE production, but, yes, also a stunning feature from a certain Kendrick Lamar.
With a chugging 36 minute runtime, Vince Staples’ second studio album elevates the Norfside Long Beach rapper to the forefront of hip-hop’s electronic crossbreed. Though the size of the pond gains square footage daily, Staples is poised to remain the genre’s big fish.