PITCHFORK: THE 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2017 - VINCE STAPLES, BIG FISH THEORY
THE 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2017
From Fever Ray to Kendrick to King Krule, the album as an art form took on new resonance this year. These are the best of the best.
Though our culture of fast distraction seems hell-bent on crushing the album beneath its endless scroll, the form remains a pillar of art, something to aspire to. In music, when you want to make a statement, you make an album. Still. And right now, those statements are perhaps more varied and fluid than ever before. In the following list, you will find full-length declarations of self-worth sung through the languages of R&B and goth, political rebellion both rapped and screamed, musical memoirs backed by beats and guitars, and multidimensional dreams of escapism by way of pulsing synthesizers. Here are the 50 best albums of 2017.
07. Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
While Vince Staples’ affable, everyman charm and witty online presence has endeared him to hip-hop circles, the rapper has bigger goals in mind. On Big Fish Theory, his concise and clear-eyed second album, he continues to shift away from expectations, this time condensing sharp social commentary and personal insights into tightly knit club tracks. Staples is a committed civic observer here, unabashedly thumbing his nose at the government on “BagBak,” one of hip-hop’s first responses to the Trump presidency.
Most often, though, his favorite subject is the one in the mirror. “Big Fish” is a striking character profile, rich with detail about his pre-fame life in Long Beach, California, as well as poignant admissions about his anxieties as a marquee name. The album’s rhythms draw from from big-beat and house, but rather than signaling a departure from hip-hop, Big Fish Theory reinforces Staples’ niche within black music overall; it establishes his connection to the young black men and women who fostered the rise of electronic music decades before him, on dancefloors in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and beyond. The result well worth savoring, before he evolves to his next exciting form. –Vanessa Okoth-Obbo
Listen: Vince Staples, “BagBak”