Vince Staples just dropped a great album. It seems ignorant to think that Staples was not artistically inclined in this album and was not using metaphors throughout the project. Here are some parts of the album that beg further examination and my hypotheses on them. You would be best served to listen to the album while reading this as the sound of the songs are just as important as their lyrics.
First we must examine the use of boats in the visuals for the album.
Why would Vince so heavily include the imagery of a boat in distress? Well there are a couple hypotheses.
One is that Vince is commenting on the ridiculousness of this common dream in the rap community of yachting and boating. Yachting and boating is only a dream because it is a declaration of wealth and power. Staples could be saying that such a dream is futile as material goods and materialism as a whole, is fleeting and unfulfilling. In the video for Big Fish, Staples could be saying that once the material good fails (as it inevitably will), you will be thrust into a cold and harsh world (the sharks).
Another could simply be that Vince doesn’t like this dream. And while he understands the inaccessibility of boats to the inner cities. He simply is not a fan of fetishizing the ownership of boats. He thinks it is wack.
Who knows? The use of boats in music videos have always been prevalent, Staples’ spin on this is clever and new, regardless of what he is saying.
Something that is more prevalent in this album than in other Staples’ projects is the use of house beats. Flume is a producer on the album and Love Can Be sounds like a U.K. house track. This serves as a metaphor of shucking the preconceived boxes that Staples has been put into. House beats are often seen as a white form of production (even with roots in Chicago and Detroit) and Staples’ use of such beats are a deviation from the traditional form of Hip-Hop. Staples has never been one to conform to those around him and this shows that. Staples is actively flipping off the community that tries to label him and put him where they think he should be. By switching up the entire narrative re: production, Staples continues to assert control of his creative process and through that, his art.
Fish. It is all over this album. But what does it mean? In one phrase it can be summed up, the futility of man and his endeavors.
Crabs in a Bucket: a critique of the inner city and society as a whole, Crabs in a Bucket references crabs pushing each other down in order to escape the bucket. This critique of our current capitalist culture can apply to humanity as a whole. Humanity, as a whole is always trying to grow and make itself better. But because we are all trying to do that, we will inevitably end up hurting our peers and cancelling out any good we do.
Yeah Right: similar to Crabs in a Bucket, Yeah Right critiques the things that motivate us. The material possessions that are in front of us, preventing us from true harmony and true success. (maybe Staples is a socialist)
BagBak: in this song Vince is pretty much saying that no matter what he does, things will always follow him. No matter what anyone does, things are predetermined.
Most of all, Staples is calling humanity a big fish in a small pond. It may seem like we are the big predator of the world but in the grandest scale of things we are simply little guppies.