Review: Vince Staples’ ‘Prima Donna’ Mixes Black Humor, Black Rage
Midway through the 21 minutes of this seven song EP, Vince Staples sits in a hotel room beset by Kurt Cobain dreams, looking at a loaded .44 and thinking about making Van Gogh patterns on the wall with his brains. Then housekeeping knocks on the door. "Tryin' to get my head straight," he raps with lazy breathlessness. "She tryin' to get the bed straight." Staples is a third-generation Long Beach gangbanger who turned to hip-hop as safe space. A series of mixtapes led to last year's Summertime '06, two CDs of explosive rap minimalism that weighed the consequences of gangsta life. On Prima Donna he stares down his survivor's guilt with black humor and black rage. The music is as bleep-y as it is banging (James Blake produces on two tracks) and touchstones include Andre 3000, James Joyce, Leonardo DiVinci and Jay Gatsby. "I don't need a shrink, I need a hit song," Staples says in "Loco." He's playing again. That's the last thing this reluctant hero needs.