Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Vincestaplesbigfish“If you were a poetry major, I feel bad for you ’cause / You paid 90 thousand dollars and you still ain’t one.” William Shakespeare

What is it with people pretending poetry is still a thing? I get it, poetry back in the day was huge. They said all the things people wanted to say but couldn’t; spoke for those who otherwise wouldn’t have had a voice; rose in the ranks of popularity, not because they were pretty or owned land or were royal, but because they could defend and defeat lands using only pens and sharpened tongues. Others feared them, not because they were physically intimidating (Alexander Pope was a tiny ill little man), but because they knew how to get a rise from subjected people and how to speak for them. So, in other words … rappers. They’re old school fucking rappers. The torch has been passed motherfuckers! So, stop trying to make me read your diary. If you want to be a poet now of days, learn to spit. And, if you are one of those not listening to rap, you’re not listening to the poets of our day. Future generations will open English textbooks and read about rappers like Saul Williams (reason why I started reading Nietzsche), Aesop Rock, Illogic, Slug, Sage Francis, and El-P, and how they spoke for a generation, against kings, and for a higher truth. “Upgrade your brain matter cause one day it may matter.” Word? Word.

Albums like “Big Fish Theory” are the reason rap is what it is. You gotta get up early in the morning and get that fucking coffee in ya veins to get what’s going on here. For example, the title comes from the Gold Fish Theory. Meaning, a gold fish will grow according to the size of its quarters. If your surroundings are small then you’re small. If your surroundings are big then you’re big. Or, as Vince says in the song with the same name, “another story of a young black man tryna make it out that jam, goddamn.” And that’s just the fucking title.

Or how about “Crabs in a bucket”? If you throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket, they will all crawl on top of each other to get out. But, because they are all trying to get out first (self-seeking motherfuckers that they are) no one will get out. In other words, putting others down, physically or emotionally, to elevate oneself, is an action best left for animals and it won’t elevate anyone in the end. Also, as if that weren’t enough, crab is a term used by Bloods to insult Crips. Fuck, that’s just hitting it from all sides now isn’t it?

Not just that, but the music in the back is part of the meaning. “Crabs In A Bucket” has wind sounds, ambient tape hiss, police sirens, vocal chopping samples. The “Alyssa Interlude” has a sample from the Temptations song called “I Wish It Would Rain”, then Vince’s first line in the song is, “Raindrops on my windowsill”. Fuck, that’s just … goddamn … that’s fucking smart. 

How about a rewriting of the Lord’s Prayer? “Our father art in heaven, as I pray for a new McLarens. Pray the police don’t come, blow me down ’cause of my complexion.” 

There are moments when the album gets too heavy with meaning, and there are some techno sounds I’m not crazy about. Lines like, “I’m the ODB of the OPB when I go OT, all the shows sold out.” What? What the fuck are you talking about Vince? (Old dirty Bastard. Original Poppy St. Boys [Poppy Street is where Vince grew up], and Out of Town). It can be hard to understand if you don’t research the shit out of it. But that was the fucking same with poetry wasn’t it? 

This ain’t a lazy album. It drips with meaning. So take your time with it, read through the lyrics if you don’t understand them at first, then listen to the album. Vince is etching his name with poets of our day. I would listen if I were you. Or don’t. If you wanna ignore poets, philosophers, scientists, and professors, you can (you can do whatever you want). But, if you do, you got no right crying about how the world looks thin and bleak. Here: I’m going to lay down some of my favourite lines from the album. Peace. 

“I’m on a new level, I am too cultured and too ghetto.”

“Eyes can’t hide your hate for me, maybe you was made for the Maybelline.”

“I’m blood on the leaves [line from Strange Fruit], I’m the nose on the Sphinx [theory is the nose was removed from the Sphinx by Europeans to hide its traditional African features], where I’m from we don’t go to the police.”

“And them glass shoes ain’t made to walk these lonely streets unpaved, unscathed.”

“She getting naked under covers for the fame. She don’t wanna be another what’s-her-name. Brown skin, blonde brain, Etta James.”

“Couple problems my cash can’t help. Human issues, too strong for tissues. False bravado all masked by wealth.”

 

 

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