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Album Review: Vince Staples–Prima Donna

It seems like so much longer than a year ago that Summertime ’06 came out. It was a project that defined Staples as one of the stronger lyricists in a new generation of rappers, and his commentary–both in music and interviews alike–is always refreshing and welcomed. The announcement of Prima Donna came only a few days before it’s anticipated release date paired along with tongue-in-cheek album artwork with the Long Beach native’s head blown up out of proportion.

A few days after announcing the impending release of the EP, Vince tweeted out a link to win tickets to listening parties in New York and Los Angeles. Yes, I have @vincestaples tweet alerts sent to my phone; so I saw it the second it was posted and entered immediately along with texting the 5 friends I have harassing them to enter so they could take me if they won.

Cutting to the chase, I won tickets. And when the night came and we all gathered in the SONOS store in SoHo, it became apparent that this event was extremely intimate and low key, making it all the more exciting and special.

The album is playing softly from the store speakers and all of us are standing around basking in the new sounds. A few minutes into this music being bestowed upon us, I notice someone out of the corner of my eye–it was Vince. Before I realized who it was, I just noticed him because he had a really smooth way of gliding rather than a normal step, walking with his inhaler hanging halfway out of his mouth like it was the dopest accessory on the market.

I don’t think there was one person in that building who didn’t comment on how cool his walk is. I met Nas once a few years ago (I mention this partially for the sake of just sheer name dropping and partially to prove an actual point) and Nas has a striking, undeniable ambiance about him–which you can imagine from how big of a celebrity he is. Vince has something similar, though not as arrogant. Not saying Mr. Jones acted at all arrogant, but Vince’s impressive demeanor was in a much more modest, I-don’t-care-who-I-am-and-you-shouldn’t-either way.

He stood there with us and talked to anyone who would talk to him. When I introduced myself he even said “Hi, I’m Vince” like I don’t have a picture of him as the screensaver on my phone. It was an unfamiliar way to experience the first listening of an album, and every music fan’s dream. I will probably remain biased toward Prima Donna due to the circumstances, but overall, it is an undeniably strong project that shows Vince’s progression.

The overall theme of the album–along with the short visual that goes with it–is that Staples is jaded by his journey through fame and touring and that even when he tries to disconnect from it, it follows him around, mentally and physically.

The second “War Ready” started, I already knew it was going to be a standout from the project. Being a huge Outkast fan, one of my favorite songs on Vince’s last project was “Like It Is” because it very subtly samples “Da Art Of Storytellin.” With “War Ready”‘s heavy incorporation of Andre 3000’s verse in ATLiens, it depicts the parallel between the two rappers and the fact that their voices in hip hop really are weapons that never run out of ammunition.

Another highlight of the album is “Loco”. I’m a big fan of when artists have certain songs that they revisit on albums with sequels (see: Da Art Of Storytellin, Money Trees, Shook Ones, etc.) and this one was done really well. “Loca” from Summertime ’06 was both one of my favorites storyline-wise and beat-wise (all praise to No I.D.) so I was especially intrigued to see this on the track listing assuming it would be a sequel. Just like it’s predecessor, “Loco” features a hollow clapping beat that easily puts you in a trance, but this time Vince is focusing on the craziness within himself.

Though there is one track on this project produced by No I.D., “Pimp Hand”, I would love to see more of his role on Vince’s next album. His heavy influence on Summertime ’06 was super important and I think they work seamlessly as a pair when those vocals and beats collide.

As a project, Prima Donna is a departure for Vince Staples. It seems like an interesting self-reflection: him being literally depicted with a big head on the artwork and then the content on the album mostly revolving around his internal struggles with the commitments that go along with rapping, touring, and all of the above. Hearing this was like a palette cleanser for whatever his next project might be, and following a huge double disk project, I’m glad he decided to drop something short and sweet.

About Rebecah Jacobs

From Los Angeles and living in New York. Always listening to music.

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