Relationships are the key to success in any business, and maintaining bonds through the often rocky terrain of hip-hop’s landscape can be a challenge. Rapper and entrepreneur Problem is living proof that doing right by people will always bring great rewards, both personally and professionally. He has been a mainstay on the scene since he emerged as a songwriter and collaborator for Snoop Dogg, a partnership that includes a spot on the track “Upside Down” alongside Nipsey Hussle on Snoop’s 2009 “Malice In Wonderland” project. In 2012, the German-born, Compton-raised lyricist made a definitive mark on the game as a guest on E-40’s hit single “Function,” along with Iamsu! and YG. Since his first official solo release in 2013, Problem has worked with a formidable array of talent, including Chris Brown, Pharrell Williams, Jamie Foxx, Jim Jones, Childish Gambino, Too $hort and Kendrick Lamar, just to name a few.
Problem started 2020 as many of us did, with high hopes for his latest work to reach as far as it could go. Ultimately, he had his way, and no pandemic could stop him. Soon after the release of his short film “A Compton Story,” Problem delivered the 10-track Terrace Martin-produced mixtape “Coffee & Kush, Vol. 1” in May. Fans and media alike welcomed the project with open arms as summer kicked off. And just like that, Problem was on to round two with “Coffee & Kush, Vol. 2,” which released in September with a whirlwind of impressive features from Snoop Dogg, Jay Rock, Jack Harlow, Tyrese and Freddie Gibbs. Martin also popped in for a cameo, and was joined in production on the project by Don Cannon, Mike & Keys and more.
Booking so many guest artists for an album could have been a complete nightmare in 2020, but the process came together organically as the year progressed. “To be perfectly honest with you, these guys are just my friends and these are the people who always talked to me,” Problem explains. “If I’m hot or cold, they are always there. It was always bigger than music, and just through the grace of God, all of them happened to grow and become huge or stay huge.
“When it comes to Snoop Dogg, or Freddie [Gibbs], who’s reemerged as a star... or Jack Harlow, who I met maybe three years ago... or Jay Rock, I started with him...” Problem continues, “they are huge stars who have accomplished amazing things, but these are my friends. I’d rather just fuck with the people who fuck with me than go around anywhere else. My friends are cool as shit.”
Problem’s music career has developed in a time where the internet and social media have been pushed to the forefront of an artist’s promotional path, and he has made use of these tools. The nature of the internet can sometimes force an artist to rush releases, but Problem has kept the pace consistent.
“I just think with the internet it makes everything more visible,” Problem says. “I’ve dropped two [this year], three projects in the year before, it’s just that this is a little more planned out. As far as TikTok and Triller, I know that’s not really a space for me. If something goes crazy over there, that’s dope and I’m appreciative, but I kinda know where I can play and I know my lane. So I really focus on that. We went in with a game plan, we did all the work and it was like, ‘Let’s lay it out. Let’s have a 52-week plan and just run it and I guarantee everything will go correctly.’”
Although East Coast versus West Coast feels like a thing of the past to many fans, Problem asserts West Coast artists still feel on the outs with some East Coast media. “When I’m [on the East Coast], from the people it’s love,” he explains. “The people and artists, it’s love. The media not so much. East Coast media will tap into the southern artists early, the New York artists early, even the Chicago artists early. We need that same love out here. I’ve actually been trying to fix that.”
Problem is a man with stories to tell. His music is a conduit for his tales, as are his many tattoos. The first tattoo he ever got was of his daughter when he was 20 years old, while his most recent was of his sixth child. In a moment filled with sentimentality, he laughingly details how his first tattoo was poorly done, even if out of love. “It’s just what it is, and what it represents is the real reason for it,” he says. “But the look of it… I let my friend play, I was high, but I was really in this emotional state being a father trying to figure out why I can’t see my child, and all these weird emotions like, ‘I HAVE to have her next to me.’ I didn’t give a damn what it looked like, but I want to get this one fixed soon.”
Of all his work, Problem’s favorite tattoo is the statement piece on his neck: Dream big, live bigger. “I feel like it’s very important to not just dream big, but wake up, get up, and make that shit larger than life,” he explains. “For me, it’s a huge reminder of how my mindset has to always stay. Everybody has big ideas, but nobody has execution. To live bigger you have to execute those dreams.”
Problem acknowledges the difficulty of realizing this concept in a second tattoo. Across his chest he has his entire philosophy encompassed in one word—perseverance. “I think it’s very important to understand that you need perseverance to do anything in life,” he explains. “A great man, a great father, a great rapper, or whatever, you have to go through the growing pains of learning how to do it, and that takes perseverance because it gets rough. Sometimes it doesn’t go the way we want it, but that doesn’t mean you stop.”
With over a decade of creative work under his belt, it’s been a natural progression for Problem to take on more unique endeavors. His partnership in Green Hour Coffee is currently paying off, as the brand is growing by leaps and bounds. “I want to turn it into a Fortune 500 company,” he says. “Coffee and kush is the new chicken and waffles. I realize that coffee and weed go together because I do it every morning, and so many successful people tell me they do it, so turning this coffee and kush culture into something bigger than these albums is my goal. I hope for certain we’ll be worth at least 2 billion dollars in the next two years.”
With inspiration in his heart and clear focus on the future, Problem has the solution for every obstacle. “I want people to know that change is good. I’m not the same man I was, and that’s OK,” Problem enthusiastically states. “I love the fact that I’m not the same person I was when you first heard my music. I feel like if you’re the same person 10 years later, you should just jump off a bridge. I know people who don’t keep cars for 10 years, so I don’t see how you would think you’re supposed to be the same way.
“I want people to know that I’ve changed tremendously, and I’m still the same in a lot of other ways,” he continues. “I’m far more focused, far more aware of my surroundings, who I am, what I can bring to the table in all situations. I fucking just want to see everybody else win. I want to help you to be better.”