“Born in Germany, and raised in Compton” is one of the first things that catches your eye when you read 26-year-old rapper Problem’s biography. No stranger to the music industry, Problem has already written, co-produced, and worked with such icons as Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, John Legend, and DJ Quik while releasing two hit singles of his own, 2008’s “I’m Toe Up” and the currently in rotation, “Last Love.”
The trials and tribulations that he has experienced throughout his career have helped Problem fine-tune his craft and cultivate diversity in both his sound and music. Now, in 2012, Problem is ready to go “all-in” and provide his fans with music that is mature, unique, and well-rounded, all while never forgetting his roots or where he comes from.
AllHipHop.com spoke to the newly-anointed Breeding Ground artist, Problem, about his come-up in Compton, his prior signing to Universal Records, what the Diamond Lane Music Group brand means, and what fans can expect from his upcoming album Plan B.
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on, Problem? How you feeling?
Problem: Blessed, man.
AllHipHop.com: The first thing I want to ask you about is “born in Germany, raised in Compton.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Problem: Yeah, my dad was in the service, and my mom and dad were married at the time, so I was over there for the first year of my life.
AllHipHop.com: But you would consider yourself 100 percent West Coast right?
Problem: 354 percent to be honest with you [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: Fair enough. Right now, your single “Last Love” has been climbing the charts, so I want to ask you about how you’ve matured as an artist since the first time a lot of people heard you a few years ago – which was on your song, “I’m F*cked Up.”
Problem: The crazy thing is that with both records, they were made randomly. The plan wasn’t to make a big club record or a radio-friendly song; they were just based on the emotions I was going through when I did the records. I mean, it’s an obvious growth in my work, but I’m still both of those people you know what I mean? I’ve been through relationship issues, but I party and get f*cked up.
Myself and the label felt like “Last Love” was the perfect way to show that the new music I’m going to be doing is going to be bigger, and maybe not as melodic, but I’m going to show that I do sing a little bit. Not Drake-ish, ‘cause I don’t want to be in nobody’s bracket, but just to show all of the talents that I do have.
AllHipHop.com: I know that throughout your career you’ve dropped seven mixtapes and previously had a deal with Universal. Can you speak on that situation, and how that led into your affiliation with Diamond Lane Music Group?
Problem: When I signed to Universal, I got a two single deal because of the “I’m F*cked Up” record. I can say that what happened over there wasn’t there fault or my fault. It was just a lack of knowledge and not knowing the business and what I was supposed to do as an artist to push my own project.
I got the deal and did what every rapper that gets a deal does: gets the money, gets excited, tells everybody, and waits on the label to take everything into full gear and full blast. That didn’t happen. I can honestly say that I stopped so it wasn’t their fault or anybody’s fault why our marriage didn’t work but I love the fact that I even had a deal with Universal ‘cause a lot of rappers can’t say that so I’m appreciative.
As far as Diamond Lane, that’s my team, my squad, my family, and we just decided to do a music company. These are people I’ve been running with and doing things with for the last 20 years. My boy Fast Lane, the CEO, he said ‘you’ve got too much talent and too much know-how for us to not formulate together and try to push this thing over the top.’
AllHipHop.com: So, since you have dealt with a major label, and now you’re on a more independent route, how different would you say the two platforms are? Are you happier with your career now then you were before?
Problem: I’m much happier with the structure. Diamond Lane Music Group is ran like, if not more sufficiently, than a major label. We the homies when we leave the office but it’s real business oriented in the bigger picture. My friend is now my boss and I have no problem with that. He has my best interests at heart, and I have his, so it is better ‘cause I think he wakes up everyday thinking about the same thing I wake up thinking about – getting it to the next level. It’s dope. I’m having a f*cking ball right now!
AllHipHop.com: That’s all that really matters. Right now, “Last Love” is doing it’s thing on the charts and it’s supposed to be the first single off your new album Plan B due later this year. I have to ask, what happened to “Plan A”?
Problem: [laughter] Ok. The last project I put out was called Hotels, and it’s on iTunes right now, so you can go pick that up. I did a tape called My L.A. Leaker Tape prior to that, and it was my rap sh*t that I wanted to get off, and I was just wrapping the whole thing and going crazy. Then I have another set of fans with the ladies and the clubs and the streets, so the Hotels tape was kind of for that. So, my next project is Plan B ‘cause I asked myself what would I need after I left the hotel; my reckless ass needs some Plan B [laughing]. That’s where the title Plan B comes from.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me a little about Plan B. I know that the album is slated to drop sometime this year, but is there a more concrete date than that right now?
Problem: I actually just received the release date two days ago, and we’re shooting for March 6. Musically, I want the people that have been riding with me to expect the growth, and I’m finally to the point where I’m comfortable with being me, and when I say being me, I wrote and produced for a lot of people, and I couldn’t give them my most creative music because maybe I didn’t feel I was ready to do and say the things that I can watch somebody else say. Now, all that sh*t is out the window.
This is going to be a story. You’re gonna understand me, the trials and tribulations I go through as far as with my kids, my baby moms, my growing up, being from Compton but not wanting to be “that guy,” the party me. You’re going to get all of me, so it has to be on a historic platform. It’s going to be a crazy ride, and I just hope that everybody understands it and loves it, ‘cause I’m putting my all into this motherf*cker.
AllHipHop.com: Can your fans and listeners expect to hear anybody on the album that you’ve worked and collaborated with in the past, or is this a strictly Problem album in every sense?
Problem: It’s more of a Diamond Lane project. With this being one of the first major projects we’re about to put out, I’m really gonna set the standard for the brand. No sh*tty mixes, this is a store-bought quality album for me. I’m going to bring back the skits and the acting. Bad Lucc is all over it ‘cause he’s part of Diamond Lane Music Group.
Be ready for this. It’s insane; I’m telling you it’s crazy. It’s real in-house, League Of Starz produced on it, Tone Bone, my manager. I have a few records with a few notable people, but I don’t know if they’re going to make the record just yet, but you will all hear them anyway.
AllHipHop.com: Are there any plans to drop another mixtape before the album comes out?
Problem: I mean, I want to just because I’m an artist and I want people to have more music, but I’m fighting with my CEO, Fast Lane, on it because he ain’t going for that sh*t [Laughing]. I record so much and the fact that I record myself in my sessions, I have so much music and I want to get it out there.
AllHipHop.com: As a fan first and as someone who’s been around the industry for awhile, what was it like for you to be from Compton and get to work with artists like Snoop Dogg and Kurupt and DJ Quik while you were coming up?
Problem: Man, that sh*t was everything to me and more. It’s like being a kid and getting to meet Superman or Batman, for real. It’s like a “what the f*ck” moment and the fact that they embraced me as if I was one of them, for so long, it’s like a dream come true. I’ve had DJ Quik stop by my Auntie’s house in Compton just to pee [Laughing].
It’s crazy, just crazy the fact that they even know who I am was enough for me but then when they let me work and give my insight, like ‘who gives a sh*t about me’, you guys are platinum selling artists, that’ll boost the next man’s ego. To me it as like, I just have to soak in what they’re doing and get in, and we still talk to this day. They’re all rooting for me and if they ever need anything from me they’re going to get it.
AllHipHop.com: That’s truly awesome. What are your thoughts on the new guys coming up and the “New West?” What do you guys offer now that hasn’t been offered in the past?
Problem: To quote Dr. Dre, we the “next episode.” We’re spawning off of that and I honestly don’t think that the story is going to change; it’s just the way it’s told. Lebron James didn’t invent the dunk; Dr. J did and was the dunker. It’s just a different way of telling it and a different time, like they came up in a time when that whole West Coast, boom-bap era, gangbanging, crack, and the music was that. That’s why it was so edgy and so gritty, but that’s not what’s going on right now. This is the pill era and the sex era, there’s a whole lot of different stuff to talk about but it’s still all West Coast.
AllHipHop.com: Being that it is January, what are some of the goals you’ve set for yourself for this year? What are you striving to achieve in 2012?
Problem: By the end of 2012, I’m striving for Diamond Lane Music Group to be placed up there with the Cash Moneys, the Interscopes, that’s the goal I’m setting. I want Plan B to sell 30,000 copies this year, that’s my goal. I want Diamond Lane to be in everybody’s face. It’s not a “me thing;” it’s a “we thing.” This Diamond Lane sh*t is a movement – it’s not a record company, it’s not the streets, this is a way of life. Diamond Lane is really about smashing your goals, being a part of this life, and wanting to do better.
AllHipHop.com: Wrapping up, is there anything else you want the fans, readers, and your listeners to know?
Problem: I want everybody to know that another goal of mine is to make everybody catch up. I want them to go back and find all the stuff I did and be like, “god damn.” I didn’t just come out of nowhere this has been a grind.
AllHipHop.com: Great. Thanks for your time, Problem.
Problem: Thank you! Keep f*cking with me!
For More Information, Visit www.DiamondLaneMusicGroup.com
Follow Problem On Twitter: @ItsAProblem