Compton rapper Problem has worked heavily with hip-hop icons Snoop Dogg and E-40--his collaboration with the latter, "Function," topped several Best Rap Songs of 2012 lists. But he's also just about the only MC in the game who isn't scared to look happy about his success. Still riding the high of last year's celebrated mixtape Welcome to Mollywood 2, Problem joins Chris Brown, TYGA, Trinidad James, Future, Big Sean and A$AP Rocky as part of Power 106's annual Powerhouse event at the Honda Center this weekend. We spoke to the rapper about how the song "Function" came to be, why he smiles so much and if the MDMA on the cover of his mixtape was real.
OC Weekly (Chaz Kangas): Your moniker, "Problem," actually predates your rap career and comes from your teenage years playing basketball. What made you decide to try rapping?
PROBLEM: Honestly, man, the real answer is girls. All the girls liked rapping. They would come over, I'd freestyle, and they'd be into it. I dove into it, and I've been locked in ever since.
How did your song "Function" with E-40 come together?
I had a record with 40 called "Potion" last summer, and the "Function" hook was the first four bars of my verse on "Potion"; 40 heard something I didn't hear, and so when it dropped, it was just crazy to know where that song started from.
You wrote three records for Snoop's Ego Trippin' album. Was it different working on that than your previous output?
Yes, because of what was at stake. That was my first job and my first chance to get paid doing anything musically. I had to execute and let everybody know I'm here to stay. I was writing with a whole 'nother point in the end, but right now, the end is for me.
You had to record the first Welcome to Mollywood tape in two weeks. Were you used to that turnover time?
Since I record and engineer myself, I record four to five songs a day anyway. It's the way I keep my raps up, so, yeah. If someone gives me a deadline, I will hit it.
Was it that way for the new Welcome to Mollywood as well?
This one, I really had more time because I didn't know when we were going to put it out, but [it] took three weeks to a month. There's even 12 songs that didn't make it because they didn't fit the vibe of the record.
You've said before you're most interested in music from the '80s and early '90s and how you've tried to apply those sounds to your own music. What about it appeals to you?
It was a bright thing, but it was heavy. The way it made you feel was different. You could tell they were all in that studio, and you could feel the energy in it. That's what I get from it. I was just in the studio with Wiz Khalifa for three days, and we know each other, so it's a different vibe than if we emailed back and forth.
In your Soul Train interview, it was pointed out that you smile more than the average MC. Is that still the case?
I don't have much to complain about. I smile; I'm happy about the success of my label and excited to see what's next for the future of my company and myself.
Where did the idea for the cover of the Mollywood 2 mixtape come from?
I came up with the actual writing of the [title] in MDMA because I thought that would be trippy, and the actual picture was chosen by my manager. So everything was dope together; it was a collaborative thing.
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The MDMA was real?
Gotta live it man.
Problem performs with Chris Brown, TYGA, Trinidad James, Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, Future, Drop City Yacht Club and surprise guests at Powerhouse at the Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 704-2400; www.hondacenter.com. Sat., 7 p.m. $64.75-$144.45. All ages.