Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

At this present moment, rap is composed of Kendrick Lamar, the typical trap that saturates the mainstream like Future and Migos,  and the budding underground scene like Xxxtentacion and Lil Pump. However, with his latest album Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples makes it impossible to put him in either category. He brings something entirely fresh and innovative to the table. The amount of experimentation on this album is at maximum level, and it maximizes how amazing the album is.

Vince Staples is a true lyricist with an off-base sound evident on previous projects. He’s put himself in the conversation of top new school rappers. However, he is still highly underrated since he is not as mainstream as phenomenal lyricists like Kendrick Lamar. Especially in the state that rap is in right now where its more about flow and how lit the track is, talented and forward-thinking artists like Vince unfortunately get overlooked by many. However, Big Fish Theory stands out from the noise.

The production on the album is the foundation of this album. It’s experimental, odd, stellar, and extremely vibey despite not being the typical beats you tend to hear. That’s why this record stands out big time. It sounds like nothing else—just Vince. Staples has collaborated with future-bass producer Flume on the latter’s own track “Smoke and Retribution”, and it seems to have inspired the whole sound of Big Fish Theory. Flume’s production is phenomenal and unusual, and it’s surprising to find that he actually only produced one track on it. Overall, the album is well-produced and abnormally experimental. Some compare it’s eccentricity to Yeezus by Kanye West (Vince’s “Homage” and Kanye’s “New Slaves” are roughly similar), and, though that may be the closest thing to it, Big Fish Theory is a different species.

This experimental sound allows for Vince’s lyricism to get highlighted and underlined. Vince is truly a genius with the pen, and he continues to weave rhymes, word play, and story together while maintaining enough flow to make it all work.

Vince only featured a few artists on this album, and it was the best artists he could possibly ask to feature. Kendrick Lamar and KUCKA lend their vocals to the Flume and SOPHIE-produced track “Yeah Right”. Ultimately this is the most unexpected dream team ever, and they coalesce to create the best song on the album (which needs a music video ASAP). Vince collaborated with Kilo Kish previously, and she can be found on multiple songs. Vince brought Damon Albarn from Gorillaz on “Love Can Be…” and A$AP Rocky on “SAMO”. Ty Dolla Sign murders the hook on “Rain Come Down”, which is the concluding track to the mind-blowing project.

Overall, Big Fish Theory is exceptional. Artists can get daunted by experimenting with different sounds, but Vince took the challenge and it paid off. Vince Staples was eccentric before, and now he’s reached a new level. And it is the best thing that could have happened. Big Fish Theory cements Vince’s name in the conversation for top 10 of new school rappers.

Top vybes: “Yeah Right”, “745”, “BagBak”, “Homage”

For those who vybe to: Earl Sweatshirt and A$AP Rocky

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Blackbear-Cashmere Noose

10/10

If you have never listened to Blackbear, then you’re truly missing out on pure gold. Being a native from Los Angeles, Blackbear often croons about life and love in California, but his whole approach sets him apart. Rising in the music industry with his alternative hip-hop/R&B style, Blackbear sets himself apart with his unique voice and his wide variability across discography without sacrificing his signature sound. 2016 has been busy for him, as he had already dropped his album Help and the Drink Bleach EP. But with his latest release Cashmere Noose EP (which dropped August 3 but was released commercially deluxe on November 11), Blackbear is poised to make greater waves in music.

Cashmere Noose opens up with the track “Sniffing Vicodin in Paris”, which places Blackbear over a happy chorus-backed beat. Like all of his songs, his lyric game on this track is perfect, both describing and denouncing the seemingly shallow LA lifestyle. We can always count on Blackbear to delve into dark depths, which he does on “Sometimes I Want 2 Die”. As told by the title, it’s a somber song about self-loathing dictated quite poetically. Although it’s not on the deluxe EP, “Spent All My Money on Rick Owens Cargo Pants” is a dope song featuring Mod Sun. The track showcases the slick production evident on each track. That’s one reason why Blackbear continues to create masterpieces.

Blending his exceptional voice, top-notch production, and excellent lyricism, Blackbear delivers musically extraordinary opuses rather than just ordinary songs. The only bad thing about Cashmere Noose, which I must admit that I feel awful for even mentioning something bad, is that over half of the songs are under three minutes long. Apart from that, Blackbear hits one out the park with this EP. Hopefully he can quit it with the EPs and drop an album for next year. Nonetheless, Blackbear is an artist worthy of a place on everybody’s playlist.

Top vibes: “Flirt Right Back”, “Wanderlust”

For those who vibe to: Roy Woods, Kehlani

Check out the EP with the two songs that didn’t make the deluxe version below.

A$AP Mob-Cozy Tapes Vol. I-Friends

9/10

There are few collectives that actually make waves in music. A$AP Mob is one of them, and they prove it on their second LP Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends. The group consists of practically any rapper with A$AP in their name, most notably A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg. Any project with these two is crafted with such genius that truly escalates it to another level. Cozy Tapes follows suit, further proving why A$AP Mob is next level.

If you subtract the first two minutes and eighteen seconds from the opening banger “Yamborghini High”, Cozy Tapes is perfect from start to finish. The album flows extremely well, as if each track is smoothly passing the baton to the next one. “Crazy Brazy” is special, built off the infectious hook at the start. The production of this whole album is supernatural, making anyone feel blessed when the beat kicks in. One thing I admired was that the album showcased most A$AP members in enough quantity. Like many others, I believed A$AP Mob to be solely carried on the backs of A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg. However, the other members like A$AP Nast, A$AP Ant, and A$AP Twelvyy dropped some of their best efforts.

Some notable features on the album are Lil Yachty (“Bachelor”), Lil Uzi Vert (“Runner”), and Madeintyo (“Bachelor”), but it was Tyler, The Creator who stood out the most. “Telephone Calls” is perfection, especially when Tyler kills his verse, which might be the best verse on the whole album. In its entirety, Cozy Tapes is a masterpiece filled with bangers that show why A$AP Mob is both too good and getting better.

Top vibes: “Young N***a Living”, “Telephone Calls”

For those who vibe to: any A$AP member, ScHoolboy Q

Check out the music video for “Yamborghini High” below.

“Drug Dealer”-Macklemore

With the help of producer Ryan Lewis, Macklemore has garnished many fans. Just like any other artist, he’s also gathered a horde of haters, perhaps more than what is normal. However, Macklemore continues to drop great songs, from the classic “Thrift Shop” to the anthem “Downtown”. The Heist was the album that put his name everywhere, but This Unruly Mess I’ve Made was also successful, despite falling into its predecessor’s shadow. Macklemore is back with a new single, and it’s quite the opposite of the energetic paeans mentioned above.

Trading Ryan Lewis in for Ariana Deboo, Macklemore dives deep into the dark world of addiction on the new single “Drug Dealer”. Thoughtfully rapping over a calm piano beat, Macklemore sheds light on the true effect of drugs. Speaking from personal experience and alluding to other’s, Macklemore crafts a song that is reminiscent of a diary entry that exposes the repercussions of drug addiction. Lyrics take the stage on this track, proving that lyricism can truly take a simple beat far without extra bass or added synth. In the first verse, Macklemore describes a personal account of how he got introduced to drugs. Then he lists a bunch of artists who had overdosed due to drugs, such as Prince and Whitney Houston, laying down more reasoning to why addiction is so damaging. After mentioning how it’s a nationwide epidemic, Ariana Deboo croons a chorus, further pushing the fact that drug addiction is promoted by pharmaceutical companies under the guise that they will heal individuals. Instead, it gives them emptiness, the same emptiness that drives Macklemore into rapping an emotional second verse that serves as a plea of desperation. The rest of the song follows suit, adding to the description of a serious situation.

You can love or hate Macklemore. However, you cannot deny the fact that he can drop poignant lyrics on real issues. Instead of creating a fantasy where drugs are idolized like other rappers tend to do, Macklemore paints a picture of the reality of the matter. It is music with a message and a purpose, rather than a song that glorifies a certain vice. Now, I am not saying that songs that do this are bad; however, they are not necessarily adding substance or providing insightful change. With this in mind, Macklemore’s “Drug Dealer” is a simple, yet deep track that describes the complex reality of addiction with a high dose of emotion that carries it a long way.

Vibes like: “Love Yourz” – J. Cole

For those who vibe to: Chiddy Bang, Mac Miller