In case you haven’t heard his contributions to songs like E-40’s “Function” or his “Welcome To Mollywood” mixtape series, Problem makes it a point to enjoy himself on the microphone. That doesn’t sound like much of a formula, but there’s clearly a difference between someone like Problem and acts like the Ying Yang Twinz, who have fallen by the wayside.
“You gotta have some type of skill to do this…just being clever no matter what kind of music you do,” Problem explained while at a recording studio in North Hollywood, California. “You should have some integrity about what you sayin’. The balance is that I’m not that deep, and I’ve never been that deep. I just do the songs and have fun.”
As it turns out Problem does have some type of skill. He’s been employed as one of Snoop Dogg’s writers. And while the Compton native doesn’t physically write many of his own verses (he prefers to add on to his verses impromptu style while he’s in the booth), he’s a bit of a Hip Hop historian. In between puffs of Cali’s finest provided by a “lifetime sponsorship” from Daddy’s Collectives dispensary, Problem explained the impact artists such as Eazy-E and DJ Quik have had on his burgeoning career. It’s a lot to take in. Suffice it to say, when Problem and DJ Drama drop their “The Separation” mixtape on June 13, fans will be able to judge for themselves.
Problem Explains Master P’s Influence On “Like Whaaat”
HipHopDX: People associate you with catchy, ratchet songs that women and drunk people love. But you can actually rap well, so how do you balance those two elements?
Problem: I appreciate that. First of all, thank you for saying that I can rap. That’s dope. A lot of people don’t give me that recognition, ‘cause I guess they think I’m all about the club songs. But you gotta have some type of skill to do this…just being clever no matter what kind of music you do. You should have some integrity about what you sayin’. The balance is that I’m not that deep, and I’ve never been that deep. I just do the songs and have fun. I just get into the moment of whatever the emotion of that record is. I’m really into song structure and feel of it. I just go in there and do me. I make sure I represent this brand the right way when I speak. That’s pretty much as deep as it is. I can’t tell you how to balance it [laughs], because I’m just having fun.
DX: You’ve got some Louisiana ties. Tell me about the first time you heard “How You Do Dat” by Master P and Young Bleed.
Problem: It was on The [Video Music] Box. A lot of people probably don’t remember The Box, but that shit used to come on all the time. With the [“How You Do Dat”] video, they had on these white beanies and were jumpin’ around playing the song. That shit was bangin’, and I just remember hearing it all the time. Me and Bad Lucc were loving it. We were riding around talking about all the songs we used to like, and how we were gonna flip that when we got back in the studio, and we did it…having fun.
DX: As an independent artist, how much of an influence was Master P and what he did at No Limit?
Problem: It was huge…the type of deal he got. That showed it was possible when he got it, because everybody thought he couldn’t get it. Even at that time, it was a far more lucrative business that deal he got was still unheard of. When we were talking about it at Diamond Lane Music Group and the type of situation we were looking for, people are like, “What? Are you crazy?” Ask Master P. Anybody can get what they want if they really get out here and work for it.
How Problem & IamSU! United The Bay & LA By Collaborating
DX: Master P did a lot in terms of bringing trends and sounds from Richmond, California to New Orleans and vice versa. A lot of people like to separate the sounds of Northern and Southern California. How do you feel about unifying the Bay and LA by being on E-40’s “Function” and recording with Clyde Carson and IamSU!?
Problem: First and foremost, I never noticed all the similarities between me and Master P…that’s kinda crazy. I been knowin’ E-40 for a while. Honestly, shit I was honored that he allowed me on “Function.” That was crazy, because that’s E-40! I don’t care what part of California you from, so it’s been bridged. And I think musically it’s just now starting to be shown. I been on [tracks with] Clyde Carson, and I been on other people’s. Me and IamSu!—we actually met at the “Function” video shoot. So for us to be this close is kinda crazy. Everybody got the same goal, but it’s about being positive, getting yours and showing respect to everybody instead of disrespect. As long as everybody is doing that from all over the world, we gonna be straight. We’re just trying keep our backyard clean, and we want to be looking like something when everybody look at us now. It’s cool to me. I fucks with it.
DX: So “Million Dollar Afro” and all of those collaborations came from the “Function” video?
Problem: Yeah, we met at that shoot. My manager and his manager run League of Stars together, so it makes sense. We were already cool, and then when we get into the studio we’re like the same guy. He makes beats; he engineers himself. He has a crew, and I have my crew. That’s why the project took three days. It was three studios sessions—turnin’ up and having a good time! It was like a fucking workshop. He’d be making a beat, then I’d make a beat, so it was like, “Damn! It came out like that?” You could tell it just felt fun, and you develop chemistry with somebody through seeing them and respecting what they do. He’s all over the place. It just made sense with us Bay to LA artists. We going out and mashin’. Let’s do it, shit!
DX: What did you pick up from him, since you two are similar as far as rhyming and producing?
Problem: Shit…that I ain’t the only out here that’s tryna go get it. He’s so young; he’s younger than me, but I saw his energy and how dope he is right now while still being conscious of his business. It just made me respect him even more. The fact that he can out-rap a whole lot mothafuckas just makes it even better. It’s a mutual respect when we in the studio, because our brands can bring something to the other one. There’s no ego shit or nothing. He know he dope, and I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m reppin’; he know what he reppin’, but when we together this shit looks huge.
DX: True. Your biggest look came from writing for Snoop. What’s the difference between writing for someone else versus your own material, since you don’t physically write down your own verses?
Problem: Before, honestly I liked the stuff I wrote for other people better than what I did for me. It’s funny how I can play that person way better than I can play myself in some sense. It used to always fuck with me. Like right now it would probably be harder for me to write for somebody, because I’m enjoying what I’m doing for me. The person I was writing for would probably sound just like me as opposed to me knowing how to sound like them. That shit taught me to develop my own style. The thing is, if Snoop can say, “Let’s do this together,” and I know how to tell his whole life story and all his cadences and all that shit, that means he was really the nigga! I would love to have my own influence on somebody like that. That shit is crazy…I just go in, bruh. It ain’t that deep to me. If it feel right, and if it bang, then it’s dope. If it don’t, then let’s make some more. That’s my logic in music.
Problem’s Favorite Moments In Compton Hip Hop History
DX: Okay, everyone knows you represent Compton. What are your favorite Hip Hop moments in Compton’s History?
Problem: I gotta say Eazy-E—whatever the fuck triggered him to do whatever the fuck he wanted to do, ‘cause that changed the world. Niggas was talking about the White House. You gotta think, them mothafuckas was…Ice Cube was 15 and writing that shit? At 15, I was thinking about a dribbling a basketball and trying to fuck with…I wasn’t thinking about having to be a grown man and sell dope to dudes. That shit is some—when you think about it—when you older, to see that not being from California? It was like, “This is fucking crazy. Is everybody living like that over there?” But when you’re hearing it over here man, them niggas know what they talking about. Shit is crazy, but you don’t think too much of it ‘til you see the rest of the shit. That was crazy! Them niggas was not even able to fucking vote talking like that. They fucked music up! That triggered everything. That changed the way the East Coast was rappin’. It changed a lot of shit. It was just really huge…
DX: That’s a good one. How about the back and forth between MC Eiht and DJ Quik?
Problem: I’m biased ‘cause “Dollaz N Sense” was my favorite DJ Quik song. Being from Compton, some people thought he was the punk pretty boy, and he got on that nigga ass. No disrespect to Eiht—shout out to him—but at that time, I was like, “Oooh, look at this nigga talkin that shit!” That shit ranks pretty high, ‘cause the get backs was pretty cool too. Quik came outta nowhere like, “Let’s get down to business, bitches…” That nigga was like, “Fuck the bullshit,” and that was the first time a blood had gangbanged on a song. He was really out there; now it’s kind of typical, but he was talking about Piru shit. That nigga was gangbangin’ that song, and that was when Death Row was like Cash Money now.
There’s a lot of big moments…that shit Kendrick did that shit was crazy. It’s a lot of shit going on, man.
HipHopDX: How about King T?
Problem: I knew of King T, but I wasn’t as familiar with his work. When I heard him on 2001—that’s not what triggered me to go back—but that’s one of the pieces of work that had me like, “This nigga!” Then I did my homework and how Biggie was like, “I modeled my style after King T.” We’re talking about Biggie fuckin’ Smalls here. That’s crazy, so that means he’s somebody…he was something to be fucked with. I used to hear him with The Likwit Crew too.
DX: Well those are some pretty big Comton moments. As we fast-forward to the present day, how’s your relationship with T.I.?
Problem: The first time I met T.I., we was supposed to go do a song, and then he said, “Come to the hotel,” and I said, “Alright.” He told me we were gonna go somewhere else, and we ended up following him to Dr. Dre’s house. So, I met T.I. and Dre for the first time in one night. So we get in there, and it’s not like a music scene. We’re just chillin’. We start popping, and then we start talking about Compton with Dre. Next thing you know, he’s pressing play, and we recorded a record. It was a crazy, mind-blowing experience. That was the first time I met T.I.
DX: Was that “Shit Popped Off?” Where do you think the track you all recorded will end up?
Problem: I’ve learned not to speak on things that I don’t know or have any knowledge about so I don’t know where it’s going. My thing is, it’s in here [points at his head] forever, so I got that. I got my own personal footage that I look at.
DX: In May, there was some talk that he was trying to get you and a few other artists over to Hustle Gang…
Problem: Shout out to the homie T.I.; that’s one real mothafucka, man. He say what’s on his mind, and I can tell he’s a shrewd one. He don’t play with that business. He came in and gave me a lot of wise words—we had a great talk. Shout out to him and the whole Hustle Gang family. I’m Diamond Lane Music Group though; that’s what I’m signed to. That’s the only place I’m signed to, and there’s no major link as of yet. Right now we’re majorly independent, so everything’s cool right now. Shout out to the bro Tip…he’s a homie man.
DX: What do you do the night after hanging out with T.I. and Dr. Dre. Are you just supposed to go back to normal, day-to-day life?
Problem: No, that’s when it kicks in that what you do ain’t regular. You start realizing that, because these mothafuckas wouldn’t have had me up there, and they wouldn’t have known of my company that I’m signed to. They knew everything. That showed, “Oh shit. Maybe what we was doing in that box that was so regular ain’t that mothafuckin’ regular. We must be doing our shit.” So you know what you do? Stay in that box and keep doing whatever the fuck it is that made them two decide to take us to that house. That’s the mentality we got around here.
I’m still a fan! I’m not gonna be the nigga that’s too cool. This is Dre and Tip. I’m like, “Hey my nigga, what was you thinking about when you dropped the chords on that one song?” He got so intrigued ‘cause he knew I engineered, that it spawned a whole ‘nother conversation. That’s me! I think I’m cool doing what I’m doing, and I don’t gotta act cool. That’s another story. But I’m having fun…fuck that! Ain’t nobody too big or too small, ‘cause…shit, they was all small or big at one time. I wasn’t shit two years ago; they said we wouldn’t be able to do none of this. And now y’all here talking to me. I’m havin fun.
DX: In a lot of interviews, you mention that Diamond Lane is not just a label; it’s family. Some people say you shouldn’t mix business with family or friendship. How did you all avoid the problems that sometimes come with that?
Problem: A lot my rich Jewish friends all get their businesses from they dads and give it to their friends and then recruit their friends. I think it’s a myth that dumb mothafuckas put out just to hide the fact they wanna do dumb shit to they homies. Personally—at this stage that I’m at in life and all of us in my crew—we know that having a friendship is some type of business too. I gotta deal with everything in your life if we friends. So don’t do no dumb shit to fuck it up for me, ‘cause you know I’m finna come rescue…it’s a whole other thing with us. We think a whole other way. So it is business; we’ve been in business for years. I know all these niggas mamas, and they know mine. We know where each other stay. I’m cool, and that’s just how it go. People can say what they want. If you’ve got sense, then you gotta be a grown man about protocol, knowing what the situation is and respecting what you do know a lot about a what you don’t know a lot about. That’s ego shit that be fuckin’ niggas crews off. We already had some little buzz. We was alright when we started, so it’s cool.
DX: How has the Internet helped your career?
Problem: Tremendously. I didn’t realize how powerful it was. I’m not Internet savvy like that. I’ma studio rat. I know how to work all that shit, but I don’t know how to click around and find all that information. I’m just really getting hip on it right now… I see the difference even with the “MDA” project, because Su has a major Internet presence. It’s crazy on the Internet. He turned me onto a whole other thing. Before that, working with Wiz Khalifa on the “Cabin Fever 2” project was like, “Boom.” I learned how to utilize it better and not over saturate the market. Let’s add some mystery to this shit.
DX: Back in the day, people that weren’t actually rappers could still breakdance, do graffiti art or even deejay. That’s antiquated for a lot of people, so how do you actively participate in Hip Hop in the Digital Age?
Problem: I guess you start a successful blog site. I think that’s probably the most effective way. It’s creating jobs! I feel like, if this genre of music has created and spawned all of this, then this shit is big business. It started as a street hobby, but so did basketball. It’s changed, so you gotta get involved with this shit and find new ways to get in and move. I watched an NBA game, and maybe three out of six commercials had rappers in them. This is it, man. Think of something and jump in! You might change the game. The thing everybody always has to realize though—it all goes back to the music. You still gotta be good. It doesn’t matter how much money you got or how much you don’t got behind you…how many videos you shoot… you gotta do some good shit. And when I say good, I’m talking about lyrics and whatever the fuck makes people feel good. You gotta keep doing that. All that other shit, niggas will figure out.
DX: How did you get the nickname Chachi?
Problem: [Laughs] Chachi loves that question. My CEO, Fastlane, is my brother. He calls me saying, “Man…you Chachi now.” And I’m like, “What you talkin’ about?” What’s his name…Scott Baio? Y’all know he was on “Happy Days” right? But he was like in the back. Everybody was talking about the Fonz, but then he bosses up, comes back gets a show with his female—“Joanie Loves Chachi.” It’s like, “Okay, he creepin’ up.” Then his last show was “Charles In Charge.” It’s like, “I got my own shit! I’m doing it my way…nigga, fuck it.”
He said, “That’s you. You Chachi. You gotta embody that in all the songs.” People call me Problem, so you assume one thing. People think, “He from Compton, so he’s got all of this going on.” I think people feel more comfortable calling me Chachi.
DX: Chachi was non-threatening…
Problem: But Chachi will fuck you up though and probably faster than Problem. Problem got something to lose. In my mind, it’s like, “I’m Problem! I got shit to lose…I got to chill out.” That Chachi shit is when a nigga be on one. But Chachi loves everyone. That’s what everyone needs to know. And he want everyone to love him.