Vince Staples Sticks to His Guns on ‘Prima Donna’
Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06 was one of the best rap albums to drop in 2015 -- bar none. The Long Beach, Calif. native succeeded at crafting his most cohesively compelling project to date. This album not only solidified the 2015 XXL Freshman’s position in the game but also proved that his fan base (made up of much of the younger generation) still cares about bars. Amidst all the mumble rap that some critics say is plaguing the genre, Vince effortlessly tips the scales in favor of the more poetically inclined. One year removed from that project, the rapper is still delivering more of the same lyrical potency on his new EP, Prima Donna, but with a bit of an experimental twist.
The seven songs on Prima Donna are a refreshing change of pace for Vince Staples. On past projects, his rhymes take center stage and often steal the show but here, the beats supporting his bars are as exceptional as the lyrics. This project has more samples, less traditional song structure and what feels like a more liberated approach to music making.Plus only two guests appear: Kilo Kish on "Loco" and A$AP Rocky on "Prima Donna." Vince has always had a foot in the realm of experimental sound but Prima Donna sounds like his cannonball into that sonic space.
His genre-crossing tendencies are most obvious on the guitar-charged “Smile.” Produced by the incredibly versatile DJ Dahi, Vince details the grittier side of his intricate come-up and isn’t afraid to unambiguously describe his rise. “I left the street where I've grown/To chase the yellow brick road/I heard they paved it with gold I turned around and seen they pissed on it” is the type of rapping that has garnered the MC his increasingly visible cult following -- a fan base that love him most for being unapologetically himself.
“Big Time” is another example of Vince’s thirst for out of this world instrumentation. James Blake’s electronic spasm of a beat opens up for a rare display of the rapper's cutting braggadocios rhymes. “I’ll body a nigga for saying I can't” is probably the best way to sum up his sentiments towards his perceived lackluster peers. The best part about this track is that Vince spits twice as hard over a beat that helps him carry his words with conviction.
There is also a small dose of classic Vince Staples political commentary on Prima Donna -- subtle but ever so effective. Sampling Andre 3000’s final verse on “ATLiens” sets off a vibe of resistant inclination on “War Ready.” The rough and ready sample works out seamlessly as Vince delivers rhymes supporting Three Stacks' sentiments. Heavy-hitting lines like “Heaven, Hell, free or jail, same shit/County jail bus, slave ship, same shit/A wise man once said that a black man better off dead/So I'm, war ready” serve as a reminder that Vince is still a rebellious 23-year-old from Long Beach that doesn’t care about anything remotely politically correct.
In fact, this militant, mainstream-averse narrative is quickly becoming his bread and butter. He later raps about being discredited for the “platinum” rapper: “They only fucking with the rapper if the rapper rich/Or got a platinum hit/A chain or two/Seem the music interchangeable.”
There is no doubt that Vince Staples' popularity is growing exponentially and putting out projects like this only increases his stock value. Prima Donna doesn't have one single track that carries the project and this is obviously done on purpose. It's an effort better experienced as a whole rather than its parts. Vince continues to stick to his guns, refusing to compromise when it comes to his music and mindset. Thankfully, though, he's willing to dabble in different worlds to keep his sound from becoming stale. "Sometimes I feel like giving up," he repeatedly says on "Smile." It's a statement that proves the rapper is only human but there's a bigger picture that keeps him here.
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