Coming in after his critically acclaimed debut album, Summertime ‘06, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples releases his 2nd EP, Prima Donna. The extended play premiered on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show August 25, 2016. Staples explains that this project depicts the moment of realizing where he came from now that he’s pursuing a self-committed career. Vince also dropped a scripted visual with this EP where clips of the songs in Prima Donna are the soundtrack.
- Light of Mine
In the intro to Prima Donna is Vince is singing the gospel classic “This Little Light of Mine.” As the tune is wrapping up, there is an abrupt gun shot. The shot symbolizes that the light in his life has ended.
- War Ready
This track starts with banging production done by artist James Blake and a sample from a part of Andre 3000’s last verse in “ATLiens.” The sample in this song complement’s Staples’ flow perfectly. Going more into the song, the repetitive hook reminds me of a spiritual chant.
“They only fucking with the rapper if the rapper rich, or got a platinum hit; a chain or two. Seem the music interchangeable.” — Vince Staples, War Ready
This quotable lyric, along with the interviews Vince did during the promo run for this project, opened my eyes even more to how skewed and messed up the industry is (which frustrates me as someone who aspires to change it.) To the labels, money is EVERYTHING. Of course artist have to get paid, but the industry is reshaping the hip hop culture in a negative way because of this mindset; and they don’t care! Money is the primary focus so they’re searching for the TRENDING talent rather than a long-lasting gem (one that actually writes their own rhymes, spits actual bars, and actually respects the culture.) This is all clarity to me as to why so many artist go independent nowadays but, to each his own.
Playing “Smile” I automatically hear the dope electric guitars and “boom, bap” drums. Vince raps about how he left all of his friends and family behind to pursue his career in music. Now that he’s possessed the success that he aspired to have, he’s unhappy with the fact that he left his loved ones for the fame. The fame is something that he can’t get away from. This predicament leaves him with feelings of loneliness and suicidal thoughts.
I honestly love the melody in the intro and hook of this track. With this, the first verse is fire. In contrast, the overall rock ‘n roll vibe and the nonchalant flow in the bridge throws me off a little. The outro in this song is an acapella rap done by Staples. It’s a really nice touch to the theme of this project. The style of this outro is heard several times throughout the EP. In this particular outro, Vince explains that sometimes he just wants to give up.
“I know that money come and go so money not my motive no mo’. I made enough to know I’ll never make enough for my soul.” — Vince Staples, Smile
“Loco” portrays a crazy time in Vince’s life. He talks about the time he went loco in a hotel having “Kurt Cobain dreams.” Those lyrics are played out in the visual for this project which is my favorite part of the short film. In this scene, he’s in a hotel, basically hallucinating. The camera pans to open rooms on the floor he’s walking on and you see Kurt Cobain, 2Pac, Amy Winehouse, and Jimi Hendrix; all artist that died in their mid and late 20s.
This track features one of Vince’s friends, female artist Kilo Kish. I SWORE this girl was white because of the accurate tone of pop vocals she lays on this track so I was surprised to find out she wasn’t. Her addition to this song definitely defines opposites that attract. Vince and Kilo go back and forth on the hook and the way Vince comes in right after her on verse 2 is PERFECT.
“I load the 44, Then paint the Van Gogh.” — Vince Staples, Loco
He didn’t just load the gun, put the gun down, and then painted the Van Gogh. You know why? You can’t paint a Van Gogh; it’s already painted! This quotable lyric is a play on words about Vince blasting his brain and the blood splatters from it. Mental illness is real guys.
- Prima Donna
This title-track for the EP features A$AP Rocky on the hook giving some vocals and a bar or 2. There’s more talk about suicide on this track with a depiction of the meaning behind Prima Donna. Rocky asks “Is it real?” referring to one being addicted to the fame once they’re in too deep. With that, Vince explains that he feels like a pop star. In the outro, it’s obvious that Vince is tired of the violence and youth dying, expressing that he wants to live forever and be a better influence to those watching.
“Feelin’ like a pop star, music drive a nigga crazy. Think I’m finna pull a Wavves on the Primavera stage. On some prima donna shit, finna throw it all away. I don’t need no accolades, boy I’m here to act a fool.” — Vince Staples, Prima Donna
- Pimp Hand
“Pimp Hand” is my favorite track off Prima Donna. No I.D. did a phenomenal job on the production. Here, Vince is indicating that older critics don’t have the right to talk about the state of hip-hop today because it’s not what they know it as it used it be. The title of the song and it’s matching lyric “Time to show these bitches who the man, pimp hand strong,” is where Vince is basically saying “it’s my time to shine and show you all how its really done.”
This track was recorded back in 2015.
“OG’s tryna tell a nigga bout the game but it don’t add up cause the Crippin’ not the same on me.” — Vince Staples, Pimp Hand
- Big Time
In the last song on the EP, there’s more amazing production done by James Blake, especially on the bridge. It definitely sounds like its out of a movie. This track reflects on Staples’ gang banging days and how he’s made it to be “big time.” I love the outro 1000%. There’s the signature “Next time on Poppy Street” and a ‘leave you hanging/until next time’ feel from the indistinct “Hello? Is anybody there?” inquiry at the very end.
“The radio never gon’ play me. Quit if my label don’t pay me. I’ll run up in there with my gun in the air screaming “give me the shit, you owe Jay-Z.” — Vince Staples, Big Time
Overall, I can enjoy this project because it contains substance, making it something that I can truly analyze. There’s a lot of satire and for that, it makes my cut for one of the best projects of 2016. Vince Staples leaves me hopeful for the future of hip hop. Please support!
Overall Rating: ★★★★/5