"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."
-"Let It Shine"
Returning from masterpiece and debut album, Summertime '06, Vince Staples cements his authentic sound in fashion that almost makes Prima Donna serve as a sequel to his previous work. This strange and unexpected EP launched just near a year of a twenty-song journey through the depths of Staples' upbringing picks up where the last song of the album, "'06", left off with a charismatic and egotistical statement about his success. Where Summertime '06 experimented, Prima Donna embraces. Vince Staples has capitalized on the unique sound of his previous album to enthusiastically pace the victory lap that is Prima Donna.
Very few EPs can sound as complete albums the way Prima Donna does, and after the storybook album of Summertime '06, Staples has proven to shape any concept into a full story by highlighting every detail individually to form an album filled with focused themes within each song. The manner in which story-telling is delivered in Prima Donna feels a lot like Kendrick Lamar's 2013 classic, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, as every song concludes with tape-recordings of Vince singing under his breath introspective messages to himself. Prima Donna encompasses the lack of personal connections that come with fame, and despite having ego inflate Vince's head, he is troubled by the concept of fame beyond wealth.
Vince Staples lures you into his mind-state with the EP's opening song "Let It Shine", which plays a grainy tape of him singing a piece is based off classic gospel song "This Little Light of Mine". Just as you gently enter his shoes, a gunshot fires that is guaranteed to shock because of the volume contrast to the tape. Prima Donna proceeds to launch with very electronic "War Ready", including a sampled Andre 3000 hook that demands attention.
"Softly as if I played piano in the dark,
I found a way to channel my anger now to embark"
Staccato hip-hop seems to be Vince's comfort zone for most of Prima Donna, but the most stunning track since his warm "Summertime" love song in Summertime '06, is "Smile". Just after we hear from the likes of Andre 3000, Vince springs into a rock anthem with just a single verse and a memorable chorus that displays his versatility as an artist as he requests directly at his audience to do him a favor and smile for him. because his lack of comfort has taken away his own. Prima Donna welcomes the return of Kilo Kish on "Loco" as a follow up to Summertime '06's "Loca", that resonates the beauty of youth and personal connections to look back and recognize how far he has come.
"Motion of the ocean waves capsize me, baptize my frame.
Salt water inside my wounds, I don't know who to blame."
Finally Prima Donna's self titled track, "Prima Donna" featuring an A$AP Rocky, he finally questions himself if anything he is experiencing is real through a chaotic verse that settles in an introspective hook. Tape recording plays once more, marking the most significant statement of his message is his desire to live forever and show everyone the better. Prima Donna's closing songs, "Pimp Hand" and "Big Time" are far more exciting in nature than previous songs and have received in response a theory that the album is actually backwards, which would make sense because of the relative connection they have to Summertime '06 but is something yet to be confirmed.
"Fed up with the same things, fed up with my life changing"
It's difficult to pick out songs from a cohesive project such as this EP, but its most memorable moments function in mood and the pace set throughout its entire listen, making it very hard to be a casual listen. For new fans, Vince Staples has a unique voice and the beats can be sporadic and unpredictable, stay on the edge of your seat. The heavy complexion and dynamic of Prima Donna blows away the standard structure of rap music, and creates almost a fusion of various genres to become one, yet to be labeled.
What Vince Staples is for hip-hop is a bright light in a foggy mist of repetition, and while he is often loudly criticized for his peculiarity in sound, Prima Donna silences with its confidence to being whatever and precisely what Vince simply feels like it should be.