Vince Staples cites “Kurt Cobain dreams,” but the suicidal Nirvana frontman serves as a stand-in for anyone who ever felt the walls close in.
If rock/rap star alienation is its own genre, Staples rehabilitates it on this barely 20-minute EP—part F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack-Up,” part psychedelic gangsta rap industrial rave brawl soundtracked by James Blake, DJ Dahi, and No I.D.
Unlike his more self-pitying peers, Staples lucidly dissects his psychological disintegration. We see the pitfalls and contradictions of celebrity—the pressures that mount when you need to escape poverty and violence but can’t turn your back on the place that raised you.
Prima Donna is existentially trapped music—when you’re too wealthy to complain but branded a consumer product, forced to answer condescending questions, and smile for inane selfies. When Staples sings in that wounded croak, “this little light of mine,” it’s hard to imagine anyone else so artfully distilling the darkness.