Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory
Critic Score
Based on 27 reviews
2017 Ratings: #6 / 887
Year End Rank: #6
User Score
2017 Ratings: #35
Liked by 72 people
Sign In to rate and review



‘Big Fish Theory’ is one of the most ambitious, dazzling hip-hop albums of 2017 so far – neck-and-neck with Kendrick’s ‘DAMN.’.


This is rap at its most hedonistic, providing beats that would make a wallflower’s booty go frenetic in the club, but it is also rap at its most bleak, paranoiac and boundary-pushing.


So, let it be said succinctly: Big Fish Theory is the best hip-hop album of 2017.

A.V. Club

Big Fish Theory veers off the course set by its predecessor, bucking the sophomore slump by ditching the vast majority of his old collaborators and peers in favor of the sort of whole-cloth artistic reinvention generally associated with canonical greats like Kanye or Bowie. What’s even crazier is that he sticks the landing. It’s his second classic LP in a row.

Entertainment Weekly

The full-length follow-up to his 2015 debut, Summertime ’06, surpasses expectations, with incisive lyrics and beats that spurn current trends for a set that sounds unlike anything else in hip-hop right now.

Consequence of Sound

On his new album, Big Fish Theory, Staples continues to perfect his brand of nuanced nihilism while exploring new sounds that should put the music industry on notice that the future is now.

Pretty Much Amazing

This is Big Fish Theory in its basest form: A truly progressive, existential, emotionally saturated hip-hop album that establishes the value of dance-centric collaboration by reminding us that it’s exactly that.


On Big Fish Theory, the rapper changes nothing and everything, preserving his manifesto even in the newfound casings of fame, or something like it, and the most colorful and upending production to grace a hip-hop record this year. It’s thirty-six minutes of pain, perseverance, and persuasion that largely refuse to slow down.

The Line of Best Fit

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.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but not many sound or think the same way Staples does.
Drowned in Sound

Staples's world of desperation, danger and decadence is deeply involving yet hugely entertaining, and represents another huge stride forward for an artist that can only move in giant leaps.

Crack Magazine
With the bar set high, this album still manages to up the ante for the Long Beach rapper – and it might be the most intriguing, innovative and barrier-busting release Def Jam has given us in what feels like too long.

The new album is smooth where Summertime ‘06 was jagged, foregoing the disquieting noise for something more functional, finding sophistication in streamlined motion, like an art installation set up in a nightclub.


It’s accessible yet intricate and challenging. It’s political, but that political is threaded through the personal, so Staples never sounds like he’s preaching or trying to speak for anything but his own experience.

While Vince sticks with his most familiar narrative examining stardom’s futility despite it providing escape from former life’s struggles, his calling lies in finding provocative, edgy and unconventional ways to tell his story.

‘Big Fish Theory’ is 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.

The Guardian

Staples might not own everyone quite yet but Big Fish Theory suggests he’s well on the way.


Big Fish Theory cements Staples' status as one of the most talented and forward-thinking voices in rap in the late 2010s.


The Big Fish Theory is a powerful and troubling record. It’s an epic in miniature that shows a natural progression from Staples’s previous work.


A focused collection with no egregious misses or lapses in quality, Big Fish Theory should only assist in Vince’s ascent as he continues to lay the foundation to what looks to be a legacy that will put him among the greatest scribes of his generation.


By weaponising his introspection and pushing his impeccably high standards outwards, Vince Staples delivers an incredible State of the Union address on rap today.

The Observer

Like its predecessors, Big Fish Theory is an album that grabs you by the lapels with its urgency while slapping you round the ears with its sound design.

FLOOD Magazine

Summertime ’06 announced Vince Staples as a major figure, but Big Fish Theory makes it clear that he’s restless, inventive, and unconcerned with those keeping score from the other side of the glass.

The 405
While this album is being heralded as a triumph by many, to this writer it feels more akin to an in-between; furtive steps in a new direction that will almost doubtlessly be mined even more successfully next go round – assuming our hero doesn't veer in yet another direction.
Rolling Stone

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.

The Needle Drop

Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory is the Long Beach rapper's most eclectic project yet, but still exposes major songwriting deficiencies.

(Clam Eater 3000's Ultimate Guide to the Musical Wonders of the Sea: #3)

According to studies of the Big Fish Theory, the Big Fish goes "ool ool ool."

Well, here we are once again fellow land mammals! I, your professional marine tour guide, Clam Eater 3000, will take you on a journey down the great Atlantic seas just off the Nova Scotian coast. A strange creature lurks within these waters...If this is your first time with us, I'd like to welcome you to bring some extra oxygen tanks ... read more
This album sounds like it was made in 3040
When I gave this album its first listen, I had no idea what I was getting into. I hadn't listened to the singles and I hadn't looked up the featured artists or producers for any of the tracks; all the information on the album that I had was from various reviews that I had read, but nothing that gave me much information. As soon as Crabs In a Bucket began to pick up, I knew that this was about to be completely different from any other hip hop release of this year.
Summertime '06 didn't have ... read more
Damn, I'm so glad I listened to this! Big Fish Theory is one of the most unique experimental hip hop albums I've ever heard, combining hip hop with elements of wonky electronic music, hip house and more hardcore hip hop elements. I had no idea what to expect when listening to this but it sure wasn't this! I love the combination of electronic music in this album, especially on Yeah Right. Kendrick Lamar over SOPHIE production was something I'd never imagine happening, but I'm so glad it ... read more

Never really been all that big a fan of Vince, as everything I've heard from him just felt underwhelming and boring for me. So I went into this a little bit biased against it, but DAMN, this thing blew my expectations away! Production throughout this whole album was phenomenal, this is honestly like a modern day YEEZUS, with how glitchy and rough a lot of the tracks on here were. Also, I honestly really loved ... read more
Purchasing Big Fish Theory from Amazon helps support Album of the Year. Or consider a donation?

Added on: May 15, 2017