Photos courtesy of Problem
Compton rapper and producer Problem has been on a steady upward trajectory since the mid-2000s, stacking guest verses and production and writing credits for a bevy of A-list artists (including an early cosign and regular support from Snoop Dogg himself). In 2010, he and his longtime friend Brody Lawson launched their own record label, Diamond Lane Music Group, and they have been on the indie grind ever since.
Problem had a particularly big year in 2013. His Mollywood 2 project (technically from 2012, but big on radio in 2013) was chock full of amazing sleazy West Coast party rap (sample hook: “bitch I’m on drugs!”) and Million Dollar Afro, his collab tape with IAMSU, showed an unprecedented level of Bay/LA cohesion. “Like Whaaat” was an anthem and massive regional hit, complete with a bunch of legends in the video and a scorcher of a guest verse from labelmate Bad Lucc.
That’s not to say Problem peaked two years ago, but 2013’s DJ Mustard-adjacent West Coast party rap resurgence was certainly fertile ground for his style. As the sound of his city got darker and weirder in subsequent years (Kendrick teaming up with Flying Lotus and whatnot), Problem stuck to his guns rather than following the trends. He laid low, quietly putting out a tape last year and another earlier this spring.
And so Mollywood 3: The Relapse, released in two “sides” two days apart (June 30 and July 2) is a grand return. Between Side A and Side B, the album is almost 40 tracks long, featuring a grip of verses from Diamond Lane signees Bad Lucc and Stoney Tha Dealer. The deluxe version drops on iTunes today, July 10. I gave Problem a call to find out more about the new project.
It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve heard from Problem. Where have you been?
Honestly I haven't really been anywhere! As far as putting out projects, I just took a little break to get myself together and get my business in order. Diamond Lane put out Bad Lucc's project Off The Porch out a couple months ago. I had some records out since then, but it was time for me to get back, to solidify what the street music is, what the party music is, what the radio music is, all in one go. So that's why I had to come back with a splash! Forty new joints.
Explain what you mean by the street music, the party music and the radio music.
I just wanted to solidify what I was hearing. I go to the club, listen to the radio, listen to what's in the streets, and there's definitely room for Diamond Lane music group. It's a lot of good music, but I didn't feel like it's enough authentic music. Especially out on the West … when I go out in a West Coast club and I hear more South music than West Coast music, I don't like that.
But Los Angeles has so many artists that are popping right now…
Definitely! But if you think about it, Kendrick just dropped something, YG's album was a year or two ago. It hasn't been a lot of projects coming out. We had dope singles. But we’ve got to put these bodies of work out again… in my opinion!
You put out a 40 track album. That's a lot of music! What's the logic in doing that?
In actuality I put out two projects under the same umbrella. But I’ve been gone for a couple years: Why not come back with a fury? In the most basic terms, I'm independent. Volume is one of my best attributes: I do music every day, I'm in the studio every day, Bad Lucc is in the studio every day, Stoney is in the studio every day. We might as well start flashing. If we’ve got it and it's high quality, why not put it out there?
Besides I’ve never seen anybody drop a whole album but drop half of it one day, half of it the other. Shit, I wanted to be the first to do it.
So a lot of it has to do with planting your flag and saying "here's what we're doing." It's not as much about putting out a short, super-cohesive album.
It's definitely about that thought! If you listen to it from beginning to end, there's a story to it. At the end of Side A, I get shot. Then I wake up in Side B waking up from a dream. Hell nah. It has to be cohesive otherwise it's not coming out. The producer in me won't allow that.
What’s your thinking in putting the project on DatPiff and also selling it on iTunes?
As an independent, we have to fight with the majors in terms of time, space, studio time, air time, and good music, There's a lot of good music out! We have to make sure it's everywhere. If you buy it you buy it, if you download it you download it, but you're going to get it, and once you get it you're going to understand what Diamond Lane is about.
Everybody knows album sales are low, but it's about being heard. It's about the music being heard. and if you feel like it's good enough to buy, buy it! It's like when you go to the mall—I can try on clothes before I get them.
That’s an interesting point, though. DatPiff and iTunes have different audiences and if someone only fucks with iTunes they're not gonna see you.
Yeah you have to put it everywhere. Of course, I put four bonus tracks on the iTunes version. Everybody's trying to reinvent the wheel. This is just our version.
You're really into molly, but rap is trending more towards xanax and lean. What is it that makes you prefer one over the other?
I'm not into molly the drug. I feel like people are misinterpreting that. Mollywood is a place that you go to when you feel that way. But I'm not an activist for molly. I don't promote molly. This is just my third installment of something I created. It's a world, you go into this place, it's more the feeling of when you're on that.
Now everybody's on xanax and whatnot, that don't mean I'm going to start. They can keep doing what they do. I'm gonna keep doing what I do. They can go do a xan-world, xannywood, more power to them! Turn up. But I ain't never finna do what everybody else is doing. When I started the Mollywood series, wasn't nobody doing that!
Lakers or Clippers?
Lakers all day. I'm optimistic about this season. Lou Williams is coming to town with his two girlfriends. Brandon Bass always been a decent player; I can't wait to see how he fits in. I can't wait to see how the young kid D’Angelo Russell fits in. And we got Julius Randle; he's technically a rookie still! We might sneak up on a few people. I know we're better than we were last year. Last year made my fucking brain hurt.
Andrew Friedman is Noisey's chief Mollywood correspondant. Follow him on Twitter.