Vince Staples is like rap’s angsty little brother. It’s hard to believe he was once friends with Tyler, the Creator and the original Odd Future group before embarking on his own rap career, one he said he didn’t even know if he wanted. With no sign of slowing, however, Staples seems to be gaining more and more popularity, even though he might just be the most depressed rapper in the game. Penning one of the darkest records of last year, Summertime ’06 contained songs with lyrics like “I pray to God cause I need him, on three let’s jump off the roof,” and production from No I.D. that would even make Vic Mensa ask if he was alright.
Right off the bat of Prima Donna, Vince is singing “This Little Light of Mine” to himself on what appears to sound like a phone recording. He’s interrupted by gunshots followed by a sample of Outkast’s “ATLiens” screwed way down and repeated heavily. This leads into a track called “Smile,” about how he’s ashamed of chasing fame and now nothing makes him happy. At the end he repeats the phrase “sometimes I feel like giving up” ad nauseam through the same iPhone recorded sounding production. For Prima Donna, Staples has hooked up with producer James Blake, who had a similar depressing record with this year’s The Colour in Anything. A friendship to me, that makes complete sense. It makes even more sense when you account for how much repetition Staples has here on Prima Donna, being a staple (pun intended) of James Blake’s work.
Overall, other than an interesting style of rap that we don’t hear unless Vince or Vic Mensa put something out, Prima Donna is pretty underwhelming. I don’t really see a time where I’d ever want to listen to it or where the phrase “put on that angry-sad new Staples tape. I’m ready to have a meltdown!” would exist. The end of “Shine”, as depressing as it is, is actually the catchiest moment of the whole EP, if only it were a fully fledged song. Vince Staples seems to know what he wants to talk about, but he’s a “Prima Donna,” caught up in the game and the fame. Just like the album’s artwork, he seems too worked up in his inflated head and whatever he’s going through to get it out right.