Exclaim!'s Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums Best of 2016

9. Vince Staples
Prima Donna
(Def Jam Recordings)

Since the release of his landmark full-length debut Summertime '06, 23-year-old wunderkind Vince Staples has been riding a wave of success thanks to his signature blend of creamy-smooth, vivacious tracks. His follow-up EP, which was poised to be a kind of victory lap, sounds more like a recession into the shadows — an experimental, understated take on hip-hop.
Opening with a solemn, tinny version of "This Little Light of Mine," cut off short by the sound of a gunshot that makes you jump to attention, Staples and his roster of A-class producers set the tone of the album from the get-go. Between a brilliant sampling of an Andre 3000 "ATLiens" verse on the track "War Ready," spoken word interludes and upbeat tracks that act as house party-ready yet lonesome, almost nihilistic odes to the world's problems, Staples has taken his craft to another level here. The question is: Where to next?
Courtney Baird-Lew