“Another story of a young black man/Tryna make it up out that jam,” Vince Staples raps on Big Fish Theory, which opens with a track employing a favourite hip-hop metaphor for African-American fratricidal violence, “Crabs in a Bucket”. But the Californian’s second album finds a new way to tell the story.
In a progression from the noir West Coast beats of his superb debut , a nightmarish account of gang-dominated life in Long Beach, the production places Staples in a futuristic electronic music-influenced setting.
“Big Fish” marries a southern rap hook by Memphis rapper Juicy J with shimmering computer effects, “Love Can Be …” matches Staples’ fast flow of words to sleek dance music and “Yeah Right” sets a huge bassline loose amid chopped-up electronic pop and guest verses from Kendrick Lamar.
Staples addresses issues of endemic racism (“Same old thing,” he sneers in “Samo”) but the forward-thinking music holds out the possibility of change. “We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in the Oval Office/Obama ain’t enough for me, we only getting started,” he declares in “BagBak”. In the meanwhile, he can settle for cementing his reputation as one of today’s best rappers.