Rapper, producer and self-described “frustrated Cro-Magnon” Machine gets personal with his debut release Selfish Bastard. Giving us an honest expression and commentary on depression, addiction, suicide and love, the Las Vegas-based rapper/producer survived and created possibly one of the most intimate and telling albums that anyone could come across this year.
The short intro, “Daemons,” is acapella to the point of being naked, with light and melancholy harmonies that bounce off of bare air–floating the listener into the bipolar excursion that is Selfish Bastard. Hasley Harkins’ vocals are enchantedly splendid, leaving the listener blissfully unaware of the impeding chaos awaiting them ahead. Tranquility quickly fades out, however, as woe fades in and the aggressive beat of “I Love Suicide Girls II” hits and the listener is introduced to an awkward, high-pitched voice promptly proclaiming, “No longer do I need such a prize as a suicide girl for me to commit suicide.” The brakes screech, the record halts, and eyebrows arch as the album’s dark state settles in and Machine proceeds to explain his past affinities for suicidal women.
“I wonder if it’s in my genes to give up.” Rapping over a blaring sound effect that’s laden with heavy – and sometimes misplaced – snare-hits, “Lineage” is a track in which Machine explores his DNA and the possible pre-disposed habits and traits that have plagued him, from addiction to quitting. The catchy, and ironically poppy, “Sertraline” details the rapper’s battles with the anti-depressant drug, and a few cringing moments occur as Machine expels some abysmal wordplay amongst trembles: “I wake up and feel like a nutcracker is trying to make peanut butter out of my skull’s insides / and he won’t stop chewing ‘til it’s the smooth kind / went from no headaches to Jif, Peter Pan brains!”
On “Wow (Can’t Believe…Demons),” we learn that the rapper’s first CD was from the duo P.M. Dawn (this may be enough to put anybody on suicide watch). The piano-ridden track sounds eerily similar to the knife-scene in Carrie (1976). And coupled with a Notorious B.I.G. “Suicidal Thoughts” vocal sample, the music provides the perfect backdrop to Machine’s gawky vocals and troublesome lyrics about his own pending exit. The 808-heavy “L.A.P.T.” marks the start of the album’s second half; and though it’s dark, it’s still an enormous departure from the gloom that swaddled the project’s first half. Featured Detroit rapper/producer Denmark Vessey attracts a different aura to the album and Machine – specifically on the first verse – flows perfectly on top of it. “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy” is a short instrumental that oozes flawlessly into one of Selfish Bastard’s standouts, the Black Noi$e produced “Angie’s Song.” This track presents the listener with one of the album’s more complete moment, as its heart-wrenched lyrics, effortless delivery, sung chorus, and mellow production intertwine to create immense pleasantry amiss such misery. The song comes as a welcomed surprise, as does Machine’s straightforward performance and singing.
“Being a man is a funny thing, isn’t it? / What comes strong becomes our imprisonment.” After two so-so to not-so-good performances (“Sorry Ladybug” and “Shit Myself”), “Thank You Omar” returns Machine to the type of fluent lyrical styling that helps to make the aforementioned “Angie’s Song” and “L.A.P.T.” stand out.
Selfish Bastard has some fine bits, however, it’s an album that’s maybe less-than-average when compared to it’s contemporaries. Substantially, at times, there’s more emotion than actual rap mechanics – oftentimes resulting in a cumbersome wreck of a song. Besieged by melancholia and despair, Selfish Bastard ends on a resolution of hope and inspiration. This 11-track personal journey is a short story of one man’s seeming conquest over the most mortal obstacle he will probably ever face; himself. “I’m living proof / What you’re going through, you can make it out”
– Julius Thompson