Diamond Lane Music Group / EMPIRE
Diamond Lane Music Group / EMPIRE

If you're at all familiar with the lineage of West Coast hip-hop, you'll know that while there are a number of cities and locales that have helped mold the landscape as we know it today, Compton, Calif. is hallowed ground and has produced some of the more legendary figures in rap history. Given Compton's reputation as a hotbed for promising rap talent, artists that call the neighborhood home are expected to carry on the tradition of greatness set by their predecessors, a task that hometown hero Problem has taken upon himself to see through.

Taking the indie circuit by storm following a stint on Universal Records, the Diamond Lane Music Group co-founder has proven himself to be one of the more consistent spitters out of California over the past few years, resulting in collaborations with some of rap's biggest names. In 2017, Problem has had a landmark year, with releases that include his Chachiville mixtape and collaborative projects alongside producers DJ Quik (Rosecrans) and Terrace Martin (Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol. 1), which have kept his name buzzing. Looking to build upon his trifecta and close the year out strong, Problem delivers Selfish, his long-awaited debut album. The project finds him confronting the man in the mirror.

On the LP opener, "Mission Statement," a song produced by JB Minor and Problem himself, finds the rapper in the midst of an extended rhyme spill, running roughshod over frantic 808s with reckless abandon. "Niggas choose a dumb dollar over smart pennies/If you don’t see the strings attached, don’t mean it ain’t any," Problem advises before running down his street resume and boasting about his sexual exploits. He paints his lifestyle as that of a hustler and a mack, a sentiment that is shared throughout his debut.

Providing a change of pace with "Top Off," a breezy, 9th Wonder-produced composition, Problem employs a nimble flow, dropping slick couplets like "$200 slides, my socks off/It's movie time, I'm box office/With or without the watch flossin'." Diamond Lane signee Airplane James also lends his gravely voice to the proceedings.

The collaborative spirit on Selfish continues as Nipsey Hussle and IamSu! join Problem on "Living Good (R.I.P. Jen)," which finds the three West Coast standouts teaming up for one of the album's more electric offerings. "I came back with some better rhymes/Bigger name, bigger chain and better ride," Nipsey Hussle barks, while IamSu! contributes a heady stanza of his own. However, it's Problem who takes poll position with a performance that rates among his most lyrically rich while showing solidarity with his HBK Gang affiliates. The second half of Selfish contains a party-starter in the album's 2 Live Crew-inspired lead-single "Get On It," but is largely enveloped in emotions that tread closer to somber than celebratory.

Vocalist Rose "Rose Gold" Muhammed makes an appearance on "Man Enough," on which Problem admits his wrongs and shortcomings over production by Terrace Martin. Concluding "Life's a bitch, so what, you menage the rest," "Man Enough" begins a trend of transparency on the rapper's part, which is heightened even further with the album's title track "Selfish," on which he addresses his failures as a man and how they have affected his outlook on life. "They say that I'm selfish, I don't disagree/'Cause when I ain't selfish, nobody lookin' out for me," Problem croons, as he revisits trips to abortion clinics with previous lovers while attempting to reconcile his past actions with the man he has become.

On "Selfish," the MC rhymes over delicate piano keys and violins, atoning for his actions in painstaking detail, with lyrics like "Trails of spirits, prettier than dandelions/Unborn born kids of mine, yelling out daddy why." Problem conveys remorse as he wonders if he's being punished his selfish misdeeds. Inspired by his son, who was born with only a small portion of his breathing tube open and developed Lymphoma in his cheek, "Selfish" finds Problem facing the man in the mirror and holding little back, making it an emotional ending to an impassioned debut.

After a decade of grinding his way to rap recognition, the past few years have seen Problem enjoying the fruits of his labor, from being tapped to pen the official anthem for the Los Angeles Rams, to working closely with the most respected names on the West Coast. Selfish is his latest pit stop on his journey to success. Consisting of an array of vibes and moods, Selfish is an exercise in versatility and showcases Problem's range as a songwriter and MC. While there isn't an explosive selection that seems ready-set for Billboard chart domination, Selfish is a defining moment in Problem's career. He continues to elevate his artistry and his stock while inching closer towards the forefront of the West Coast rap scene.

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