For Los Angeles rapper Problem, growing up in Compton wasn’t easy. But to help ease the often grim realities, the future emcee kept something special in his metaphorical back pocket. Problem (born Jason L. Martin) spent the first years of his life in Würzburg, West Germany before moving to Southern California. As a result, he always knew that the world was bigger than his house or his neighborhood. Her mind was still somehow on something else, seeking, trying to grow proverbial branches elsewhere while still keeping roots at home. Today Problem has achieved these goals. The rapper, who has worked extensively with famous artists like Snoop Dogg and Terrace Martin, will release his latest record, Coffee & Kush Vol 3 (The Finale), and episode two of his documentary series, A history of Compton, before the end of the year.
“When you come from downtown, they don’t teach you about travel, they don’t teach you about the things of the world,” says Problem, whose father was in the military when he was born. “But I never had that prospect. I always knew there was something bigger than my block or my street. Recently last year I went on tour and got to visit Germany and I was like, ‘Wow that is a big part of who I am. “
When he was born, Problem says, his parents were still relatively young. Thus, they would organize parties with friends in their free time. It was in the 80s, so their young son was pretending to sing and dance like Michael Jackson for his parents and their friends. His father had a nice, large stereo set up with echo machines, a mixer and other accessories. The burgeoning artist, still inherently comfortable with electronics, would be DJing for gatherings, knowing the perfect songs to play at the perfect times, even when he was young. Knowing that music had this attraction, Problem took to it as an adult to woo the fairer sex. But later it consumed him.
“I had my child,” says the artist. “Financially, things were not right. Everything collapsed at the same time. So I said, ‘Dude, I’m just going to get lost in this music and see what happens.’ “
Problem “locked himself in a closet” and learned on his own how to expertly design, mix, produce and operate on his modest recording equipment. He dove into the rabbit hole. But instead of going crazy like a hatter, he developed new skills that he hasn’t stopped developing ever since.
“I’ve always been interested in electronics,” says Problem. “My dad had this stereo system and we had these big electrical appliances in the house. We would take them apart. It was fun, like a big puzzle.
When Pro Tools came out, Problem had no problem with digital systems. He picked it up quickly. With every development and every verse or track, Problem took a creative leap forward. In 2001, he met the now famous producer, Terrace Martin, who would later co-produce the music-changing record, To pimp a butterfly, and the two collaborated. Martin, who had just met Problem on that first day, gave him production advice that raised Problem. When he left, Problem thought, Who was this guy? They have since come together musically in fashion, inspiring each other with new songs and ideas.
“I love the freedom of music,” Problem says. “The fact that I can walk into a room and create something out of the air – it’s amazing to me. “
Since those early days, Problem has released 19 mixtapes as well as countless singles. He also produces a CBD coffee, created a popular podcast where he interviews celebrities like Nick Cannon and DeMar DeRozen. He has worked with Jamie Foxx, Pharrel, Nipsey Hussle, Childish Gambino and John Legend. Her resume reads like a laundry list of dreams come true. But none of this could have happened without Snoop’s timely and heartfelt words of wisdom at a time when Problem was nervous, wrestling over a verse for the rapper’s next album.
“He walked in and said, ‘Hey because, if you weren’t supposed to be here, you wouldn’t be here. Throw caution to the wind. You’re gonna be one of the best, just do it like that. I need you to be you. Delivery and attitude are what sells. We all use the same words, you know? It’s just the way you say them. His genius would stop everything and give me that game. And I’ve been saying the same thing to so many people since.
Problem, whose very first recording music is from this Snoop song, admits he’s made some big changes in his life. From those years when he couldn’t provide for his family or maybe he didn’t make all the right choices until today when he excels as an artist, businessman and father of family. He also credits his wife for much of his success. They are partners every step of the way. He hopes his example can show the next generation that they can too. That there is a lot in life and that they can manifest their own sonic groves.
“You can be as tall as you want,” Problem says. “Someone told me if you get Writer’s Block you’re preparing to lie, so you might as well go home.” But if you are really trying to give people your truth, you should never run out of material. “