Compton rapper Problem's 11th mixtape, Outta Town, dropped yesterday afternoon. The set was recorded in Atlanta and is “hosted” by Atlanta radio personality DJ Holiday, who occupied a similar role on Chief Keef's recent release, Sorry 4 the Weight.
Outta Town's tracks are chock-full of prominent Atlanta features — T.I., Young Thug, Jermaine Dupri, Lil Jon, Trinidad James — and amounts to a sort of travelogue through the sounds of ATL. It may seem strange for Problem to make an Atlanta-centric record, just as his name is becoming recognizable as part of hip-hop's West Coast resurgence alongside the likes of YG, DJ Mustard, Tyga and the TDE folks. But look at it as a bit a diplomacy — this time around, the West Coast is happy to share. (Stream the full mixtape below via SoundCloud, or download it via Datpiff.)
The best track on the album, ironically, is not an tribute to the South, but to the Death Row. On “Hennessy,” Problem and T.I. deftly channel Tupac, with T.I. paying due respect to both Pac and the new West Coast v. Everybody movement. He's “fuckin' with a wild young nigga from the West Side” in more ways than one.
The other standout track — besides, of course, the two Young Thug features — is “Hallaluah” with Trinidad James, which mimics the only Atlanta artists apparently not featured on the album: Migos. The track is very good, but evidences a larger issue with Outta Town and Problem in general.
Problem's problem, besides his name forever reminding us of another rapper's biggest hit, is that he's a little too good at mimicking other styles. West Coast “Hennessy” is followed by New South “Hallaluah” which is then followed by the saccharine, ultra-poppy, heavy R&B club song “Wait for It” featuring Jermaine Dupri. Diversity is a good thing, but only up to a point. When he has so many features, at least one for each of Outta Town's 20 tracks, Problem himself sort of disappears into the various styles and flows of his great guests.
Problem's ability to incorporate other sounds comes from experience and maturity. He's 29 and was born in Germany long enough ago for it to still be called West Germany. He moved to Compton as a child, and began his rise to prominence as a songwriter for Snoop Dogg. He had a failed deal with Universal back in 2009 and his sole EP, Understand Me, received luke warm notices and was easily forgotten.
So while his career has seen its ups and downs, Problem himself shows no signs of stopping. The rapper has always been known for hard work, and he was even admonished by Snoop Dogg for working a little too hard. Eleven mixtapes is no joke, and with each one, his flexible style becomes more distinct.
His debut album, Diamond Lane America, is expected this spring.