Big Fish Theory

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Big Fish Theory
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 23, 2017 (2017-06-23)
  • EastWest, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Torch, Los Angeles, CA
Vince Staples chronology
Prima Donna
Big Fish Theory
Singles from Big Fish Theory
  1. "BagBak"
    Released: February 2, 2017
  2. "Big Fish"
    Released: May 18, 2017
  3. "Rain Come Down"
    Released: June 8, 2017

Big Fish Theory is the second studio album by American rapper Vince Staples. It was released on June 23, 2017, by Blacksmith Records and Def Jam Recordings. Featuring an avant-garde style that leans toward electronic club music genres such as house and Detroit techno, it contains production work from Zack Sekoff, Sophie, Ray Brady, Jimmy Edgar, GTA, Justin Vernon and Flume, among others; as well as vocal contributions from a variety of artists including Kilo Kish, Kendrick Lamar, Juicy J, Ty Dolla Sign, Damon Albarn, Ray J and ASAP Rocky.

Staples promoted Big Fish Theory with a tour through Canada and United States, the Life Aquatic Tour. The album received widespread acclaim from critics, and debuted at number 16 on the US Billboard 200. It was supported by three singles: "BagBak", "Big Fish" and "Rain Come Down".

Recording and production[edit]

The majority of Big Fish Theory was recorded at EastWest Studios in Los Angeles, except for "Ramona Park Is Yankee Stadium" and "BagBak", which were recorded with producer Ray Brady at The Torch, also in Los Angeles.[2] Staples met Zack Sekoff, the album's primary producer, through Staples' DJ Westside Ty.[3]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Style and influences[edit]

Big Fish Theory's sound was inspired by Burial, James Blake, Novelist, Wiley and Zomby.[3] Despite all of these artists being English, Staples apparently wanted the album to have a Detroit techno aesthetic.[4]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Big Fish Theory is a hip hop album,[5][6] with several publications noting that the album leans toward electronic club music genres such as house and Detroit techno.[5][7][8][9][10] The album contains "terse and percussive" beats.[11] Rolling Stone characterized the album as an "avant-garde dance record that takes stock of his current loves, victories, politics and — most noticeably — interest in the cutting edge of electronic music."[12] Similarly, Justin Moran of Out said the album "fuses avant-garde electronica with aggressive hip-hop"[13] and HipHopDX described it as "one of the more avant-garde projects backed by Def Jam."[14] "Crabs in a Bucket" has wind, a police siren, ambient tape hiss, vocal chops and synthesizers. "Party People" has "stuttering" and syncopated tom-toms.[11]

Big Fish Theory's lyrics are nihilistic[5][6] and touch on politics,[9][15] suicide,[5] racism[16][17] and success and fame.[7][8][15] NME said: "[Staples'] bleak lyrical brilliance is perfectly matched by Big Fish Theory's experimental production. He's always had a taste for harsh electronic funk, and he embraces that creative urge more eagerly than ever. There's slo-mo techno, dystopian G-funk, field recordings, growling industrialism; abstract, icy grooves more indebted to Berlin than Atlanta."[6] AllMusic described the record as "a skittish thought piece wrapped around the nucleus of the Chicago footwork sound.[18] Brian Josephs of Spin thought that "Big Fish Theory's whiplash sonic shifts and industrial makeup will make comparisons with Kanye West's Yeezus easy. However, it may have more in common with The Life of Pablo, which combined elements of Yeezus' avant-garde structure with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's tortured look at fame."[8]

Release and promotion[edit]

On November 29, 2016, Staples announced he would go on a 2017 tour in promotion of Big Fish Theory, the Life Aquatic Tour, alongside Kilo Kish. It began on February 24, 2017 in San Diego, California, and ended on April 9 of the same year, in Phoenix, Arizona.[19][20]

On January 3, 2017, Staples announced that he would release a song called "BagBak" on February 2, 2017.[21] On May 18, in an interview on Zane Lowe's show Beats 1, he announced the title of his upcoming album and released an accompanying single, "Big Fish".[22][23] He also announced that Big Fish Theory would be released on June 23, 2017.[24][25] On June 8, he released his third single, "Rain Come Down",[26] as well an accompanying music video.[27] On June 11, he released the album's artwork and an Instagram photo of the 12-song track list.[28][29]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[18]
The A.V. ClubA−[32]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[33]
The Guardian4/5 stars[16]
NME5/5 stars[6]
The Observer4/5 stars[34]
Q4/5 stars[35]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[12]

Big Fish Theory received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 89, based on 25 reviews.[31] AllMusic critic Neil Z. Yeung thought that "Big Fish Theory cements Staples' status as one of the most talented and forward-thinking voices in rap in the late 2010s."[18] The A.V. Club's Clayton Purdom stated: "On Big Fish Theory, an album about the guilt that comes with transcending one's home, Staples finds a better language still."[32] Liam Egan of Clash described the album as "a record that not only sees Vince taking risks and progressing forward as an artist, but also another astounding example of what hip-hop should and can be in 2017."[37] Eric Renner Brown of Entertainment Weekly thought that Big Fish Theory "surpasses expectations, with incisive lyrics and beats that spurn current trends for a set that sounds unlike anything else in hip-hop right now."[33] The Guardian's Kate Hutchinson stated that the record "makes for a challenging, dystopian listen, the blade runner to everyone else's replicant."[16]

Joe Madden of NME stated that Staples' lyrics are "emotionally calibrated for 2017: antsy, alienated and occasionally overcome with nihilistic despair at the state of the world. And his bleak lyrical brilliance is perfectly matched by Big Fish Theory's experimental production."[6] Pitchfork gave it the title of "Best New Music" with writer Sheldon Pearce stating that "Big Fish Theory feels like a natural progression" and further added: "Amid the gleaming productions, he's still exploring darkness."[7] Rolling Stone's Christopher R. Weingarten stated: "sure, it's less focused than the reportage of 2015's Summertime '06, but the varying emotions and outlooks mark a full step forward into becoming a multi-layered, genre-crossing, emotion-spilling pop auteur in the vein of West, Drake or Childish Gambino."[12] The Line of Best Fit's Erik Thompson wrote that "on this record it is clear that Staples is making his own assertive artistic statement for these turbulent times, while also firmly establishing himself as one of the brash, singular voices that is going to be leading the music world into the chaotic, unpredictable future."[38] Sputnikmusic praised the album, calling it the best hip hop album of 2017.[39]

Year-end lists[edit]

Publication Rank Ref.
The A.V. Club
Consequence of Sound
Entertainment Weekly
The Independent
Rough Trade
Rolling Stone
The Skinny
Variety N/A

Commercial performance[edit]

Big Fish Theory debuted at number 16 on the US Billboard 200 with 24,000 album-equivalent units, of which 14,000 were pure album sales.[60]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from the album's official liner notes.[2]

1."Crabs in a Bucket"
  • Sekoff
  • Vernon[a]
2."Big Fish"Christian Rich3:18
3."Alyssa Interlude"Sekoff2:38
4."Love Can Be..."GTA2:58
5."745"Jimmy Edgar3:47
6."Ramona Park Is Yankee Stadium"
  • Staples
  • Raymond Edward Brady III
Ray Brady0:51
7."Yeah Right"3:08
10."Party People"
  • Staples
  • Sekoff
  • Staples
  • Brady
12."Rain Come Down"
Total length:36:04


  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer
  • ^[b] signifies an additional producer
  • "Crabs in a Bucket", "Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium" and "Homage" feature additional vocals by Kilo Kish
  • "Big Fish" features additional vocals by Juicy J
  • "Love Can Be..." features additional vocals by Kilo Kish, Damon Albarn and Ray J
  • "Yeah Right" features additional vocals by Kendrick Lamar and Kučka
  • "Samo" features additional vocals by ASAP Rocky and Kilo Kish
  • "BagBak" features additional vocals by Ken Rogers
  • "Rain Come Down" features additional vocals by Ty Dolla Sign

Sample credits


Credits adapted from the album's official liner notes.[2]


Chart (2017) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[61] 17
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[62] 91
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[63] 161
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[64] 19
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[65] 60
Irish Albums (IRMA)[66] 39
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[67] 28
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[68] 48
UK Albums (OCC)[69] 58
US Billboard 200[70] 16
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[71] 11
US Top Rap Albums (Billboard)[72] 7


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External links[edit]