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A breakdown of Vince Staples discography

We revisit some classics ahead of Big Fish Theory dropping

Posted by Ella McNicol

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Vince Staples flies right in the face of anyone who dares to say the youth of today are lazy. The very antithesis of this, the Longbeach born and bred rapper has barely stopped for a moment since his emergence at just nineteen years old. The beauty of his consistent (at least yearly) music drops is not merely found in the bars he spits but in witnessing Vince evolve as both an artist and a voice against injustice. In anticipation of Big Fish Theory, we’ve looked back on what Staples has achieved in his short yet music laden career.

Vince Staple’s new album ‘Big Fish Theory’ is out Friday June 23.

01. Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1

After becoming buddies with Syd tha Kyd, Mike G, and Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future on a trip to Los Angeles with Dijon “LaVish” Samo, Staples decided that a career in rap was maybe for him. At the meagre age of 19, Staples released his first official mixtape Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1. The title was chosen from a combination of Shyne the guy from Bad Boy and Rosco P. Coldchain from Star Trak Entertainment, both of whom have convictions relating to murders. Released almost six years ago now, the OG mixtape from Staples came at a time when he wasn’t yet serious about rap. Even in the naming of this project he was making a joke with himself. He was someone not dedicated to a career but with an undeniably raw sound and a hell of a lot of potential.

Track of choice:

02. Winter in Prague

Less than a year went by before Staples dropped another mixtape, this one titled Winter In Prague. This mix really began to establish Staples’ as an artist who would not let production take a back seat in his music. The mixtape was entirely produced by Staples long-time mate Michael “Uzi” Uzowuru who has worked with the likes of Frank Ocean, Vic Mensa, and Earl Sweatshirt. Uzi’s trippy, spaced out beats provide a powerful backing to Staples lyrics and their bleak humour. Way back in 2013, Staples told Complex “I did my best rapping on that Winter in Prague mixtape. Just verse wise, that session was crazy. I had the most to say on that one.” Despite this, Staples doesn’t listen to this mix because it reminds him of the bullshit he was going through at the time of the mixes recording and release.

Track of choice:

03. Stolen Youth

Returning from a trip to Samoa, Staples met Mac Miller through Earl Sweatshirt and the duo quickly came to find they shared both a musical and personal connection. The collaborative mixtape, Stolen Youth, was in many ways an organically occurring project as Miller’s beats provided a platform for Staples rap. The mix was entirely produced by Mac Miller under his pseudonym Larry Fisherman. Fisherman’s somewhat warm and bubbly, yet consistently impassioned beats, marry comfortably with the raw and intense sound personified by Staples’ lyrics. Featuring the talent of Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Joey Fatts, and Da$h, the 10 track mix was originally teased with the single ‘Guns & Roses’, a track which showed Staples capacity to take up difficult issues and discuss them through the musical platform.

Track of choice:

04. Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2

“Time-off” and “rest” seem to be missing from Staples vocabulary as it was even less than a year in-between the drop of Stolen Youth and his fourth mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol 2. It was his first solo mixtape since Shyne Coldchain Vol 1. The basic cover artwork features a black and white noose made from knotted together bandanas, suggestive of the gang ‘colors’ worn by members. The cover is evocative of Staples’ main topic for this body of work—growing up in Longbeach. The lyrics are arguably detached and matter-of-fact, as if rather than dramatising, Staples’ aims to present the reality of many people’s existence. The final song of the mix, “Earth Science” perhaps stands out as one of his most authentic and personal tracks, lamenting past love.

Track of choice:

05. Hell Can Wait

Staples managed to fit another massive drop into 2014, this time his first commercial project. His EP Hell Can Wait was released under the Def Jam Recordings label, with the tracks “Blue Suede” and “Hands Up” being dropped prior. ‘Blue Suede’ is a track who’s beat puts you on edge, reminiscent of the darker 90s gangster rap many of us still desire, whilst ‘Hands Up’ is Vince’s objection to the LAPD’s use of excessive force against people of colour. The ignited home on the mixes cover is house number 6500, a small nod to the track ’65 hunnid’. Running for just under 24 minutes, the succinct EP gave fans a taste of what to expect when Vince finally battled the full album. With Hell Can Wait, Staples’ showed he wasn’t stagnant in his music style, rather his talent has grown along with him, evolving as he experiments with producers, sounds, hooks and himself.

Track of choice: 

06. Summertime '06

There was a massive buildup to this album’s release, with mixtape after mixtape, EPs, and countless features on tracks by incredible artists previously defining Vince Staples career.

Staples music, like many rappers who came out of Longbeach before him has a focus upon gang culture, but in Staples’ voice there is a distinct difference in the lyricism. Longbeach isn’t necessarily portrayed as darkly as in other’s music (Snoop, for example). Yet the production in his debut album is eerie and at times disturbing, countering his almost novelistic lyrics which deliver some of the most poignant observations on race and class seen not just in rap but in the music industry as a collective. Summertime ’06 is brilliantly produced, with each of the separate producers bringing their own sound, yet sounds not so dissimilar that the album lacked cohesiveness. Predominantly produced by No I.D., the Kanye collaborator was joined by some of the crème de la crème of record producers, including Clams Casino, Brian Kidd, Mikky Ekko, Christian Rich, and DJ Dahi. The track ‘Like it is’ proved Staples is capable of a certain hard vulnerability almost unique to his personality with its tender lyricism yet harsh sound.

Track of choice: 

07. Prima Donna

Prima Donna, Staples’ second EP is crammed with features from some of modern hip-hop’s biggest name. Vince became more of an established artist in his own right, he’s certainly upped the ante of features too. Old faithfuls, No I.D. and DJ Dahi produced the majority of Prima Donna’s tracks, experimenting heavily with the beats, implementing subwoofers, glissandos, and beats reminiscent of rock music. But it’s the track ‘War Ready’ produced by London based producer, James Blake that really stands out on this EP. Starting with a chopped up sample of André 3000 in the track ‘ATLiens’ is more than appropriate given Staples long-time admiration for the Outkast artist. The super minimalist beat with hardly more than a single synth line over the beat combined with Vince’s bars creates an intense track with an eerie undertone. The track ‘Prima Donna’ features vocals from pretty flacko himself, A$AP Rocky, while ‘Loco’ sees Kilo Kish kill some bars in the most brazen way imaginable.

Track of choice:

08. Big Fish Theory

In case the above isn’t enough Vince Staples for your ears and you’re looking for some very fresh beats, the wait is almost over for his second studio album, Big Fish Theory. Back in May, on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1, Staples announced the imminent album which has since been followed by three singles, building up the constant furore that surrounds Vince to even greater heights. ‘Bagbak’ is a track where Staples voices anger and disagreement with the systems of oppression that dictate society, telling the President, government. and One Percent to “suck a dick”. ‘Big Fish’ examines the ways in which his music career has altered his existence and self and is accompanied by a film clip featuring Staples looking pretty laid back on a sailboat in shark-infested waters. Like the two singles before it, ‘Rain Come Down’ features a foreboding synth line, but unlike really anything Vince has made before, this almost-slow track is about a calmly pensive as Staples gets and exemplifies the scope of his talent. Staples unceremoniously dropped Big Fish Theory’s track-list in an Instagram post, without any hint of features but the real deal is ready to pre-order now and is set to grace our ears on June 23.

Track of choice:

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