Dime Q&A: Hip-Hop Star Problem Explains Why He’s The Kobe Bryant Of Rap

Two weeks ago, XXL revealed their 2013 Freshman List. While many potential candidates lashed out against the picks, Cali’s Problem simply brushed it off. According to Problem, he has a lot of other reasons to smile. Problem has proven to be a multi-faceted artist because of his innate ability to carve hooks, develop beats from scratch, engineer records, and of course, showcase his verbose wordplay on the mic. The exuberant rapper etched himself a pretty nice lane with his team Diamond Lane as he has been featured on tracks with the likes of Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar, E-40, Young Jeezy, French Montana, Snoop Dogg and more. This past year he was featured on four tracks for Wiz Khalifa‘s Cabin Fever 2 and has harvested a lot of recognition because of his poignant hooks.

After being dubbed the name Problem for his on the court abilities, he’s now being labeled a problem for delivering hits. In this interview with Dime, he talks about his relationship with Wiz Khalifa, why Kobe and the Lakers will cause havoc in the playoffs, being hybrid of Damon Stoudamire and Stephon Marbury on the courts, and why The Separation with DJ Drama will push him over the top.

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Dime: The last time you and I spoke was nearly a year ago. Since then you’ve appeared on big name tracks featuring Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar, E-40 and more. Talk about your progression and sudden transformation within that year span.
Problem: Thanks man. I mean I’m part of great time in Diamond Lane Music Group. They keep me working. They keep me humble. They keep me confident, man. They keep me in the studio and they keep me being me. I’m just happy that they’re allowing me to represent them. I love my team because they’re really turning me up. Because of them, I’m able to do what I wanna do. That’s just what it been. I mean, I’m a studio head anyway. I’m a junkie for this music.

Dime: I hear you man. What’s funny is I remember when Cabin Fever 2 came out. I saw the tracklist and was like, “Oh man. This guy Wiz showed mad love to Problem.” He had you on four records. Talk about how that relationship with Wiz came about.
PB: Well a lot of people don’t know, Carl, that me and him been friends for a long time man. I’ve known him since like ’06-07. He was at Warner Bros and was over there with my brother Terrace (Martin). We kind of linked through him. We were always cool. And then you know he did this thing. We kind of reconnected through a mutual friend – through Bird. I work with him. Then he hit me up on the jack like, “P! What you doing? Come by the studio.” So you know how you hear the line come by the studio? Business people always say that you know? Man, I was just happy to be talking to dude again and that we were chopping it up. So he gets back, hits my line and we come up there. He was like, “Bo, let’s do this. It’s time to take it to the next level. I got something for you, man. Do this tape with me.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” He was like, “Cabin Fever 2.” I was like, “Do it with you?” He was like, “Yeah. Let’s do it together.” I was like, “Oh shittt! Aight.” So we did the tape in like six days. We cut a whole lot of records. But I didn’t know what records were going on it. I saw the tracklist like you and was like, “Oh shit! Okay!” (Laughs) Yeah man. He told me just to be ready and he told me a lot of game. And he told me to watch for this this and that. That’s the bro, man.

Dime: Despite you being on some big name songs lately and with the XXL Freshman List not having you on the cover, do you feel slighted in any degree by the absence?
PB: Shout out to everybody that did make it. I think everybody who’s on there is deserving. Do I think I should have been on it? Uhh no ‘cus if that was the case, I would have been on it. I don’t really trip off of things like that. I was just happy to be nominated. My thing is this, like who would you take off? Everybody is having a productive year. You know, I don’t really trip off something like that man. Man, my thing is to keep my head on my neck. Have a straight head, don’t swivel, and rep the Diamond Lane thing. Accolades and all that stuff will come when it comes.

Dime: I hear you. What’s funny is I remember reading your interview and I didn’t know your rap name comes from being a former hooper on the courts back in the day. (Laughs)
PB: Man, I used to hoop a little bit. (Laughs) I used to play a little bit.

Dime: So were you like a point guard? Or a shooting guard? What position were you?
PB: Man, you know I ran the point guard. When I got older, I was playing in the streets. Man, I developed that deep, deep, deep, deep, deep jumper where I would just let it go from anywhere. But you know I’m just a guard! I’m not that tall but I’m definitely not scared of anything out there. You know I’ve played with some of the best.

Dime: Who would you compare your game to?
PB: Man, I don’t know! My game right now is so poop. Man it ain’t what it was. I’m not gonna lie to you. It ain’t the same from what it was. I don’t know, man. I’m not gonna lie to you, you know? But in my prime, in my prime, I’d probably have to say Damon Stoudamire or Stephon Marbury. You remember when they were eating, man, on the crossover and the pass and the “I might just hit your ass with this J!” I was somewhere up there. That was me.

Dime: Man, you took it back to the Damon Stoudamire days.
PB: Yeah, man. I was like Damon in the Toronto days or like Stephon in the Minnesota days.

Dime: So with you being from Cali. I’m assuming you’re a Lakers fan?
PB: Man, you know I’m a Lakers fan! Why would you ask me something like that? (Laughs)

Dime: I’m asking because I heard you’re fronting and you’re going to a Clippers game tonight. Like what do you mean? (Laughs)
PB: Man. I’m going to a Clippers game tonight for business purposes (Ed. note: they hosted Phoenix last Wednesday). They definitely play like warriors all the time but I’m a Lakers fan.

Dime: So in a seven-game series, if it’s the Lakers and the Clippers, do you think the Lakers can stand a chance?
PB: Man, the Lakers would win in four. No, I mean five. Yeah they would win in five.

Dime: I don’t even know if they’re going to make it in the playoffs this year with the way it’s looking.
PB: I mean you know what? We had a rough start. Our team has yet to fully play together for a full season. Dwight has back problems. If anybody had any type of back pain, they know that you cannot play when your back hurts. I don’t know why everybody acting like this n**** supposed to be flying all over the place. If my back hurts, I don’t even wanna jump in the studio. But I know how he’s feeling. He’s playing and all these n***** are fouling him and shit. I’m not tripping. We’ll be aight. But I’m going to tell you this, if we do make the playoffs, we’re the most scariest team in there. Don’t anybody wanna see Kobe in no series.

Dime: Yeah Kobe is liable to turn it up at any given point.
PB: Yeah Kobe is gonna be Kobe. That’s all I need, man.

Dime: You know this is our favorite question here at Dime for rappers. If you could compare yourself to anybody in the league, who would you choose and why?
PB: Damn. That’s deep. Like I’m new but I’m not. It’s kind of weird. For me, I don’t think you seen anything like what we’re about to do. I don’t even wanna lock myself in and say something. Whoever it would be, it would be one of them dope n***** though. I ain’t gonna say I’m sitting on anybody’s bench or nothing like that. I’d definitely have to be one of the Kobes or the LeBrons or the Kevin Durants. I’m not here to play for no small checks.

Dime: I mean if you could pick one.
PB: My demeanor… I would have to say Kobe because I’m coming for it. I’m not here to play favorites with nobody. I don’t give a damn what nobody says. I’m going for it. We’re going for it. When I try to say we’re going for it, Diamond Lane is not trying to be compared to anything. We want to be the best.

Dime: I know you have something going on with Iamsu.
PB: Yeah we just dropped that Million Dollar Afro.

Dime: Talk how about how you two came together and worked on the joint together.
PB: Well we actually met at the [E-40] “Function” video set. We met at the set. He was real cool. His manager — which is Stretch, who is a business partner with my manager — and us would often see each other and we just got cool. Like we both do the same things. We both engineer ourselves. We make beats. We just like to do the same type of stuff. So we really just got into the studio for three days and just rapped. We had a ball. We hung out, did the tape, and it was done. And then we happened to be on a lot of records together like the “Bout Me” joint and we’re on the “Slow Down” remix. There were a lot of records we were already on. It just made sense. I really respect his talents. He’s dope.

Dime: I know you have some crazy stores for me, man. I know from since the last time we spoke you’ve been turning up and having fun.
PB: (Laughs) Man. I really have been chilling. I been calm. You know a lot of people would think my turn up is outrageous. I mean it’s not outrageous to me. You know what I’m saying? I work dog. Like all my stuff that happens would most likely happen while I’m in the studio because – I’m in the studio now – I work bro. So you know, I keep my TUs (Turn Ups) to a minimum, especially lately because I got my eye on the prize right now. I could see it man. It would be dumb for me to fuck it up on some bullshit. But you know it goes sometimes. It goes.

Dime: I know you’ve worked with a lot of people so far. Is there anybody on your bucket list that you’re hoping to work with?
PB: I mean whoever the best is. Whoever the people say the best is. I wanna work with Dre. I wanna work with Kanye. I wanna work with Prince. He’s the biggest person I would wanna do. I just enjoy working with good people, man, and people that enjoy the art of making good music. I like working with people in the same room. I’m not really into the e-mail thing. If I gotta fly to you, then let’s just do that. If you gotta fly to me, let’s do that. Or if I gotta come to your studio, I’ll do that. I like competing with the artists so we could have that competition of trying to outdo each other with the music, the ideas, and just that whole everything that people don’t have in their music.

Dime: That’s how the music becomes more organic.
PB: Right and even for sonic reasons. I know it might get a little techy but like recording on the same mic. It just sounds like y’all together, you know? Like shit, let’s get back to that shit. N***** acting like they’re getting all this money, man pull up on a n**** ‘cus I’ll pull up on you. I’ll fly up on you and everything. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s do it because you can hear it in the music. You can hear it, bro.

Dime: I remember when we spoke last, I touched on London London and if you would still consider going after her. I mean I think you’re in a better place now. Are you still on the prowl?
PB: (Laughs) Nah man. Like I said, I’m going to sound like a broken record but I work. But whatever comes during my work, and it something falls on my lap, it falls on my lap. But I’m not out here looking for that. I see a lot of nice things, though. This life is fun because I work hard.

Dime: Respect. What’s the date on your mixtape The Separation with DJ Drama?
PB: I don’t have a set date but I know it’ll be before the summer starts. But it’s definitely done. I just have to fly out to Atlanta, get with Drama, and have him do what he has to do. This is going to be the first official Gangsta Grillz. I’m very excited about this. I put my all in this thing. I really can’t wait for people to hear it.

Dime: Do you have all of your features set?
PB: I got everything. I got everybody I got on there. All my features are organic. They’re all the homies. We were all in the same room. And it’s a good thing man. I got some things on there.

Dime: Can I get some love? Who’s on the tape?
PB: (Laughs) Man, I’m not into giving things away. Just know everybody who’s on there, you seen me with them before. I’ll just say that. We finna show the separation. The Separation is more than just a title. We want to prove that we’re unlike anything that you’ve ever seen. I’m not like anything you’ve ever seen. We really want to stress that. Don’t put us with nothing. We are Diamond Lane. And I wanna say musically, I want to show that I can do other things but still stay in my lane. I just can’t wait. I’m just anxious to see the response to the record because I left myself real vulnerable on there. I talked about things I ain’t ever talk about before.

What do you think?

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