Genre: West Coast Hip Hop
When I was in school, a band called LZ7 came to promote their Christian pop music, hoping to inspire us to take up religion with their Black Eyed Peas style beats, hosting a gig in a church near our school and advertising their latest single to us to promote it to reach the UK charts. ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,’ it went, ‘this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.’ In fact it’s a renowned gospel children’s song written around 1920. There have been a lot of versions of this song and it is likely that many know it in some shape or form. And so goes the intro track of Vince Staples’ EP, Prima Donna, himself alone singing quietly and humbly with a deep voice to this tune. It’s a touching rendition – before it’s cut off by a loud gunshot. The effect is startling. Suddenly we are thrown into a different world. In come the experimental electronic beats of ‘War Ready’ very reminiscent of a UK sound (may be to do with the fact James Blake is credited on production). It clearly reminds me of grime artist Mumdance’s production on the 2014 track with Novelist, ‘Take Time’. Vince Staples’ vocoded voice raps fast over silence and the beat comes in in short rushes. It’s creative, witty and effective. Unfortunately, the hook is weak, and Vince’s verses fail to offer anything impressive.
And thus the EP continues. Vince Staples offers us an EP of rap tunes in which the production is more experimental and largely better than the lyrical content. Vince has a good flow, but in this release his storytelling ability is less effective than in his 2015 LP Summertime ’06. He often surrounds his verses with talent that shines through more than the rapping – in the production, or elsewhere:
A lot the tracks are ended (or if you listen to the EP without noting the track changes, broken up) with seemingly rough recordings of Vince singing soulfully like in the intro track. This idea tires a bit throughout the EP but works well because Vince’s renditions are good. The most effective of these is towards the end of Smile, in which Vince impresses with just some simple lines – ‘sometimes I feel like giving up, sometimes I feel like giving up’ – by placing a slightly different emphasis and intonation on the repeat.
But the highlight of the EP for me is Kilo Kish’s feature. Kilo Kish has come a long way from her relaxed almost chill-wave mixtapes of the Kitty Pryde – Frank Ocean’s Channel ORANGEera – here she sounds confident, elusive, sexy. The hook of ‘Loco’ she raps on a one-two with Vince, her monotonous vocoded drawl matching his, bouncing with the beat. Kish’s “post-hook” she repeats twice, outright explicit – ‘don’t waste your time on an ignorant fuck’ – and with an almost taunting tone – ‘hey remember how we used to fight in Pre-K, mama whooped that ass for three days, parties on McDonalds for our birthday,’ that could only connect with a modern generation.
Vince provides us with a thoroughly exciting EP which is artistically put together and with some fantastic collaborations, which really sell it here. Where the EP is strangely let down is in Vince’s own material, which, while flowing well and sometimes catchy, is often lyrically uninteresting, and contrastingly less experimental and exciting than the other parts.