Vince Staples continues to cement himself as one of the best emerging rappers in 2016. His latest EP, Prima Donna, is slightly less raw and unfiltered than some of his earlier mixtapes, but it keeps the West Coast speed-flow and transmission-like template found in his previous work. This EP is exciting, with lush production and an impressive rap showcase, as Staples’ content varies from gang culture, fame and self-thwarting, with a bleak delivery broken up by moments of humour.
“They paid me 80K
I put it away for a rainy day
…You never know when you gonna catch case.”
We’re lured in with Staples presenting a rendition of ‘This Little Light of Mine’. But it sounds less like The Seekers and more like the audio from a scene in Harmony Korine’s Gummo. Whilst the lyrics are beautifully positive and uplifting, Staples’ performance is wonderfully horrifying, climaxing in a gunshot forty or so seconds in.
Featuring on the EP we’ve got James Blake, who is really overused at the moment – doing the rounds with various rappers, most recently appearing on Frank’s Blond. Blake joins Dj Dahi and No I.D. to deliver some impressive production credits.
Kilo Kish appears in duet-form on Loco. Aptly titled, Staples raps abut holding a strap in a hotel room looking at himself in a mirror and Kish is the angel on his left shoulder trying to talk him out of it. And it works. Sort of.
There’s also A$AP Rocky, who, whilst used sparingly, actually provides something a little different than slow bars about cool clothes. He says “once you get addicted to it” fifteen times towards the back-end of title track Prima Donna. And it sounds pretty lit to be fair.
Finally there’s rap demi-god Andre3000, who, I am sure must be able to strike up a seven figure deal with Apple Music for a new solo album. His ATLiens flow is mind-blowing as ever on the beginning of War Ready, which is probably the outstanding track on the album, if a little short on play-time.
Staples paints a picture of Long Beach life in a brutal but understated way, often talking of violence and gang-life in a blasé manner, just a part of the world he grew up in. There’s no reveling in being a gangster, he chronicles his stories, which often end abruptly, adding to effect, as not to linger.
“Sometimes I feel like giving up.”
Staples’ words repeated as they fade out to silence at the end of Smile.
One of the reasons a lot of people are getting excited about Vince Staples is his progression; Prima Donna is only six tracks long (excluding short intro) and is arguably his best work to date. As he asks himself.
“Is it real? Is it, is it real? Real… Real”
We’re invited in to a world where gang culture meets fame, creating an inevitable struggle that comes with dealing with it. But Staples delivers a maturity beyond his years; Prima Donna starts where Summertime ’06 left off. And as the EP closer Big Time draws to its electronica-style close, we look forward to more fire from Staples soon.
Stream Prima Donna via Apple Music below.