Vince Staples Premieres Existential 'Prima Donna' Short Film in Los Angeles
What’s the price of fame? Is life worth living? These existential questions are at the heart of Vince Staples’ new Prima Donna EP and its accompanying short film, which premiered at a private party at The Levi's Haus in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Directed by Nabil Elderkin, the roughly 10-minute visual finds Staples struggling with success. It starts with the project cover’s big-headed caricature filming a music video, bobbing between derrieres. But once the director yells “cut,” Vince’s head goes back to normal. He looks tired and unhappy. “Everyday’s a long day,” he says. “I need a vacation.”
But instead of a vacation, Staples goes on a mental trip through The Prima Donna Hotel. He sees overzealous fans in empty hallways and fantasizes about a woman who vanishes in the midst of passion. He can’t seem to shake these hallucinations as his hotel room becomes nightmarish, walls shaking as “War Ready” plays. “Think of heading to Ibiza,” he raps on the track. “Need a breather from the tripping/ Either that or my brains to the ceiling.”
Things only get darker from there. Seconds later, we hear “Loco,” where Vince raps darkly about “Kurt Cobain dreams.” In the song, a housekeeper knocks on his door while he stares at the bathroom mirror, firearm in hand. “Trying to get my head straight,” he raps. “She’s trying to get the bed straight/ No room to think/ Kaboom on the sink.”
Staples shoots a gun at the man in the mirror, the blast creating a hole hole in the wall that a gleeful audience peaks through and applauds. Meanwhile, in an alternate world, Vince is lying on wood chips with blood slowly running around him. A portion of “Smile” plays in the background. “Don't say you feel my pain,” he raps somberly. “‘Cause I don't even feel myself/ Blood rushing through my brain / Sometimes I wanna kill myself.”
Vince didn’t say much about the film at the premiere. Before it was projected on the showroom’s rooftop, he stood next to the screen and looked down at the mingling crowd. “[We] made a very nice movie thing in the Dominican Republic, home of Daddy Yankee, for my new project,” he said. “Thank you for coming and for the support and all that good stuff.”
Perhaps he didn’t explain the piece because he would like his art to speak for itself. “We live in a time when people are explaining everything for reasons that I do not understand,” he recently told Billboard. “They’re all just songs. You make them and people can relate to them how they want.”
In the end, the Prima Donna short film is another Staples special. Packed with symbolism, harsh realities and inspired imagination, it’s dark and emotionally gripping. It also begs many questions. Is he literally addressing suicide? Is it semi-autobiographical? Is he killing himself or just the prima donna that fame spawned? Vince keeps these questions unanswered for fans to interpret. He likely wouldn’t have it any other way.