Jason "Problem" Martin | In episode 99 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with Jason "Problem" Martin, LA rapper, artist, entrepreneur, and founder of "Coffee and Kush"
With LA the epi-center of cannabis and hip hop, it’s not surprising to find the two worlds cohabiting in the music and mindset of Problem. Immersed in LA rap royalty that includes Wiz Khalifa, Snoop and Kendrick Lamar, the one-time party bad-boy from Compton “changed the narrative” and it shows in his dress, demeanor and desire to transcend labels, set tables, and still stay true to his community and ongoing relationship with cannabis. When he’s not dropping mixtapes like “Coffee and Kush'' and inhaling its eponymous cannabis brand, he’s building a superteam to create nothing less than a “new future.” We talk Nipsey, Kendrick, Compton and his favorite set-in-New York TV show “Billions,” its new season centered around the emerging world of finance and cannabis. We caught up with him at Chace Infinite’s Harun Coffee Shop in Leimert Park.Read Transcript
Here we are at Harun Coffee Shop at Leimert Park. I’m sitting here with, uh, one of the regulars out here I feel.
Uh, I frequent from time to time, most definitely.
David Hershkovits (00:17):
Frequent from time to time.
David Hershkovits (00:21):
Better known as Problem, Jason L. Martin, rapper, producer, prolific mix tape maker, something like 20 mix tapes-
David Hershkovits (00:30):
Under your belt or so, right?
David Hershkovits (00:32):
You’re also an activist, community minded, native of Compton, not native, we’ll get into that, but you lived there-
David Hershkovits (00:41):
For a long time, right? Numerous side projects, uh, from what I can tell based on our brief meetings at the Hall of Flowers-
David Hershkovits (00:52):
Where we met. Uh, one of the cooler cannabis events. So what brought you there?
Ah, man I was coming to show some love and support, uh, for some new partnerships that I have with the company Burb out of Vancouver and, uh, they extended their hand to us to just kind of introduce some other brands that I’ll be bringing to market, Coffee and Kush and Benny’s along with some other things, so we were just merging, just chilling, just kind of getting all in the same room. I wanted to speak on the activist thing. I wouldn’t call myself an activist as of yet, I just think that I have a lot of big ideas and I wanna change things. So let me put in some work, let me earn that (laughs) that title.
David Hershkovits (01:29):
Okay, that’s fair.
David Hershkovits (01:31):
But I imagine you were out on the streets during, the protests and-
David Hershkovits (01:35):
Making your voice heard?
I used my, my, my medium. I used my Instagram, my social, my microphone to shed light on some things. I’ve been outside just period, you know what I’m saying? I literally didn’t wait ’till protests and things happening, like you’ll catch me sliding through just period, you know what I’m saying? I’m from over here. I’m never not gonna not be from over here. When I say over here, I mean the whole Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, California. So I’m always gonna step outside, but just not for the bad stuff, the good stuff I like to pop up for mostly. I wanna, I wanna, I wanna bring back celebrating what’s dope about my time instead of just peeping out when, when shit is all fucked up.
David Hershkovits (02:18):
Right, which is interesting because, you know, mentally, most people focus on the negative.
David Hershkovits (02:23):
They turn to… that’s, that’s how we think-
David Hershkovits (02:25):
For the most part, 90% is great, we focus on the 10% that’s not so great.
David Hershkovits (02:30):
But you’re looking at it from another perspective, right? You’re looking at the positive and trying to make that more obvious and-
Yeah, I think, I just think it’s, it’s, we, it’s time to change the perspective. I feel like if we just start highlighting what’s beautiful about where we come from, it’ll drown out the negative. I feel like the media has had a big hand in showing the faults of, of Compton, Inglewood, Los Angles, Watts, but never celebrating when we do something that’s beautiful like, like, like in Leimert Park, they had the Juneteeth, huge celebration, no violence, no problems, nothing. That was barely talked about on the news, but if somebody had got shot two days later it’d have been all over the place. Uh, we gotta break that fucking cycle now. You know what I’m saying?
David Hershkovits (03:16):
Yeah, well that’s, that’s the nature of the news, unfortunately. They don’t really report good things and pr- it is a problem because-
David Hershkovits (03:23):
You know, pe- they like to keep people in a state of panic and fear.
David Hershkovits (03:27):
And to keep them coming back to-
David Hershkovits (03:30):
You know, watch more programming. What happened, what happened? It’s kind of, uh, like a soap opera that keeps going on and on.
Well, you know, for that, yeah, but they have this show called Friends that was on how many seasons?
David Hershkovits (03:40):
Nobody ever got shot on that.
David Hershkovits (03:42):
We watched that shit all the time, so that’s not necessary true. I think we need to change the narrative. You can’t tell people like… if, if you only had one option but to see what was good, everybody would watch, trust me.
David Hershkovits (03:54):
Okay, well let’s, let’s go there. So, back to the cannabis for a minute, so where does that fit in with all of your other work, with music, involved in so many projects I see, is that kind of a side project or where do you fit that?
Ah, I will say that I’m more so just, I’m transitioning into that being the main focus. There’s financial longevity there for my family, for my team’s family. Um, it’s a space that I was born in. Like, remember I told you I’m a flower child, I call myself that, I was raised around weed. It’s been grown around my house, my mom’s always smoked weed, it’s always been around, so I’ve never seen a problem with it. I just never chose to monetize it.
And you know, slick, I’ve been fucking talking about it for the last few years, Coffee and Kush derived from me drinking coffee in the morning like you seen me do outside and smoking weed and it just provided a focus. I just started finally talking about it. And it’d be crazy, to not turn it into something bigger than that. Like, I’d like to use Whiz for example, when he came with kush and orange juice, I said, “Well damn, what would he, I know what he wish he would have did,” I pr- he wish he would have started an orange juice company.
David Hershkovits (05:07):
I think that would have been crazy. So it’s like let’s, let’s take that and add that here. It’s like let’s, let’s develop a cannabis conglomerate. Let’s put together this fucking super team of people from, from Vancouver, from LA, Detroit, let’s see what we can put together-
David Hershkovits (05:23):
Don’t forget New York.
Can’t forget New York.
David Hershkovits (05:24):
We talking about New York. New York’s coming. New York is coming for sure.
David Hershkovits (05:28):
So you, you feel it’s gonna make a difference if New York breaks through?
I think once New York breaks through, it becomes humongous, mainstream, I was watching, um, Billions, it’s one of my favorite shows on Showtime and this season is about, the federalization of cannabis.
David Hershkovits (05:44):
That’s how I know it’s getting ready to come. They wouldn’t even televise this shit if this wasn’t getting ready to happen and just the banking systems and how they’re gonna switch it up. I knew when I saw these, this may seem small, but when I saw Snoop Dog smoking a blunt on the cover of New York Times, I said, “Oh shit, the fix is in.” When I saw a billboard of cannabis on Times Square, they’re getting everybody ready. This shit gonna go federal way, way sooner than everybody thinking. I hope everybody’s ready.
David Hershkovits (06:11):
That’s gonna make a big difference, isn’t it?
It’s gonna be huge because I think it’s gonna cause a real stir up in the community because few of us have been able to operate federally. We haven’t done it yet. We don’t even know what it’s gonna be. You don’t know the regulations. So those that have, have got allies like I do with Burb who’s been operating federally for the last three years, we’re gonna have the upper hand. We’re gonna be able to just implement a system right in.
David Hershkovits (06:35):
Yeah, well we’ll see, also it’s gonna go more taxes. It’s gonna raise the price for all the legal stuff and then-
David Hershkovits (06:42):
The underground is still gonna be very big.
All the strongest brands will survive. You know what I’m saying? Um, and, and I feel like with Coffee and Kush, with Benny’s, with Burb, uh, Mama’s Flowers, the things we’re developing, I think… and shit, Roots Genetic coming. I think we are developing some of the stronger brands because they all stem from something real. It’s not like I’m just slapping my name on something to get a, to get a quick lick ’cause this is the new hot thing. These brands all mean a hell of a lot to me ’cause they all have story lines. Like everybody… I love Burb’s art, the, their approach with art and how, how art and cannabis have been just combined since the beginning of time.
Like, style and cannabis. No, we’re not fucking lazy stoners. We’re up early as fuck doing this interview. (laughs)
David Hershkovits (07:33):
For real, yeah.
The camera man is fresh as a mother fucker sitting over there.
David Hershkovits (07:35):
We not, we’re not, we’re not like bums that get stoned, we’re a lot of business men that handle shit but we like to smoke weed too, and that’s the truth.
David Hershkovits (07:42):
Yeah, well it’s true in a way that, the legalization in California kind of freed people from their couches.
David Hershkovits (07:49):
You know, like before that, that’s where you had to smoke-
David Hershkovits (07:52):
And you couldn’t go out and you had to be secret and hiding, you know?
David Hershkovits (07:56):
So now people can see it’s not just about that. You know? There’s a lot of activity around it.
In New York, maybe. In Cali we’ve been walking around fucking smoking. (laughs) And the police, the police don’t even wanna, they don’t even wanna do the paperwork. They’re like, “Listen man, we’re looking for guns and other shit man.”
David Hershkovits (08:13):
But since way back you mean?
I, again, me. I can only speak for me. Weed has never been a thing that was like, “That’s bad, don’t do that, don’t do that.” Like, it’s just, that wasn’t my household. I didn’t start smoking until I was an adult though.
David Hershkovits (08:30):
Which is crazy ’cause I don’t think I would have got in trouble, but you know-
David Hershkovits (08:34):
Oh you didn’t smoke when you were younger?
No, I, I had this dream of going to the NBA-
David Hershkovits (08:39):
And at the time, I thought you couldn’t go to the NBA if you smoked weed. I wasn’t doing anything-
David Hershkovits (08:43):
You didn’t know they were all smoking also over there. (laughs)
Didn’t know they was all smoking anyway. But, you know, I’m like, “Shit, I can’t do that.” But then when that dream didn’t happen, you know, me and my moms, we just started getting high. My first edible experience was with my mom. First time I smoke with my mom.
David Hershkovits (08:58):
David Hershkovits (08:59):
Well that’s a healthy way to embrace this whole thing, right?
Ah, yeah. Yeah.
David Hershkovits (09:02):
And the stigmatization that we hear about, you know, because of the stoner, history, prototype that people think that’s what a, what a somebody is if they smoke weed-
David Hershkovits (09:14):
That never was part of the image that you had-
David Hershkovits (09:16):
‘Cause your moms was working and-
Na, she wasn’t working. My mom has owned property since I was-
David Hershkovits (09:21):
10, 11 years old. Like she’s been owning… she owned a, she owned a mountain in Hollywood. She owns a duplex right now she just gave to my sister. She owns the house in Compton that, that we grew up in. She owns, uh, property in North Carolina. My mom ain’t had no job. She, I… this spirit that’s in me, I’ve seen this my whole life. She’s always been a boss. Like-
David Hershkovits (09:44):
When I got, when I got me a Benz, she went and bought her one-
David Hershkovits (09:47):
Just so she could show people like, na, I don’t need him to do shit. (laughs) You know what I’m saying? I just, I come from something very, very, very different.
David Hershkovits (09:56):
So Compton I know is very important to you-
David Hershkovits (10:00):
You’ve talked about it, you’ve made a movie about it-
David Hershkovits (10:02):
You’re very involved in Compton, you grew up there. My impression of Compton has changed recently because I read the book, uh, Nipsey Hussle, The Marathon Doesn’t Stop.
He’s not from Compton though. He’s from over here. He’s from the Leimert Park area, he’s from the Slauson area. Compton is down the street.
David Hershkovits (10:19):
Oh, okay, well I got them all like, you know-
David Hershkovits (10:22):
As an outsider-
David Hershkovits (10:23):
It all kind of merges into-
That’s like, that’s like if I say-
David Hershkovits (10:26):
Yeah, Harlem and Brooklyn are the same. You’d be like what the fuck are you talking about?
David Hershkovits (10:30):
Okay, so this is very different?
Very, very different.
David Hershkovits (10:31):
From where he was? You didn’t have like the gangs and all that kind of, you know?
Well there’s gangs all over this mother fucker, but, uh, there’s just different gangs over here, I’ll just say that. But, Nipsey’s, Nipsey’s power flooded all through the city. He was loved in Compton, Watts, South Central, Ing- everybody loved Nip. So, he’s been… he’s been hailed by all of us, but he’s from the Slauson area, and whe- that’s where we at right now. And Compton is down the street though.
David Hershkovits (11:01):
So we’re here right now in the gang-
David Hershkovits (11:03):
Gang district? (laughs)
Not gang district-
David Hershkovits (11:10):
That’s what I’m talking about.
I feel like, I feel like gang district is like, that’s like smacking it in the face. It’s like, na, this neighborhood-
David Hershkovits (11:14):
This neighborhood is protected by this group of people is how we like to, it’s more tribal, it’s more village like, especially with this area in particular being locked off and like this is a free zone where everybody can kind of be a free thinker-
David Hershkovits (11:28):
Yeah. That’s a beautiful thing here that I’ve just been walking around
But yeah, this was his, his hood, his, his hood is down the street this way. Yeah, but Compton is east.
David Hershkovits (11:39):
Yeah, because the way I understood, you know, the gangs in New York is like something, you know, for me as a kid growing up in Brooklyn is just something you did for a few years, just for fun and-
David Hershkovits (11:49):
You wanted to be in a gang ’cause it was a cool thing and it was just like the 3rd street gang-
Right. Blocks more blocks.
David Hershkovits (11:55):
Yeah, it’s more about blocks. And then when I read that book, The Marathon Don’t Stop, the, you know, ba-
David Hershkovits (12:00):
About Nipsey which is I, I think a really great story. It became clear that it was more of a family thing. It just-
Very much so.
David Hershkovits (12:08):
… goes back generations and it’s not necessarily, I don’t know. Of course, bad shit happens as well, but-
David Hershkovits (12:14):
… I bet good things come from the gangs, too.
Nah. I mean I think amazing things come from, from this village that’s been created. You hear what I’m saying? I think, again, it’s all about what the news and media highlights. They throw gasoline on the negative shit, and they throw a blanket on the positive shit. And that’s just how it’s always been, like, I’ve been protected and, and, and helped and mentor some of the biggest Pirus ever, some of the biggest Crips ever to come from the city were huge mentors in my life, kept me out of trouble. Didn’t let me do certain shit, and that story’s never ever talked about for some strange reason. You hear what I’m saying?
I’m pretty sure ,in New York, once somebody saw something then somebody in that gang was like, okay, let’s not have him holding guns. Let’s not have him do the drug part. Let’s put him in school. Let’s do… Let’s just send him over here. And I just think, like, putting up… highlighting it. . The origins of what that shit started from, gang banging didn’t start to be this murderous situation. It was a protecting thing, but you drop drugs on the community and drop money in the community, you know, all kind of hell brakes loose if everyone’s not educated and not organized.
David Hershkovits (13:26):
So, so you have some big ideas for Compton?
David Hershkovits (13:30):
And, and so why is it so important to you? What makes these neighborhoods so important? Why isn’t just so well, you move on, you’re successful, you can go live anywhere at this point? Why do you care about Compton?
I care about Compton because I’m not here without it. And I… you can’t just move on. You know what I’m saying? Like, I just told you my moms still owns the house I grew up in. I was just there before I came here, and I love that. You’re not not supposed to just leave. Now, I’m not gonna live anywhere for longer than five, 10 years until I get to a certain age. But, no, it’s important in going through there and letting n––s see that you can still come through. Let them see some form of success. They need to see this. I want to do this damn Walk of Fame so bad.
David Hershkovits (14:17):
Yeah. I read about that. Tell me about that.
I was talking to, a older gentlemen from the neighborhood a while go. He just recently reminded that we were talking about doing a Compton Walk of Fame. Um, so I was in the car the other night, and I’m just thinking about it. And I’m like I got a chance to talk to someone like damn, there’s so many dope people from Compton. You got fucking Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Big Boy, uh, fucking Kevin Costner, fucking the Serena Williams, shit myself. Like, it’s like hold on. I think it’d be dope for kids to walk by and see the stars. Like why do we have to have stars in Hollywood? Why do we have to that when we got this street, Rosecrans, that goes through the whole thing. We got our own downtown.
Let’s start beautifying this shit. Stop fucking with all these gang prevention joints and, and, and, and n—s tying to trip and, and all… No. Let’s just start making this shit look nice. Let’s start planting some trees around this mother fucker. Let’s start beautifying it. Let’s give it another outlet. I think, if you start showing positivity to anybody, they gonna start being positive.
David Hershkovits (15:21):
People follow you. Yeah, they’ll start doing that.
And then you’ll see like, whoa, wait a minute. Kevin Costner was from this mother fucker. It’ll trip people out. It’ll trip people out.
David Hershkovits (15:29):
what’s next step for, uh, doing something like that?
David Hershkovits (15:32):
Is there, is there… who would you go to in the-
Well, my, my-
David Hershkovits (15:36):
… Is it a political thing or…
My, um, my wife’s god brother has, said he’ll donate cement, so I found that part. Uh, we got people in place that’s ready to get their stars presented to them. Um, there’s just the city. Like, the city gotta let me do it. they gotta allocate a space for me and they gotta allow me to do.
David Hershkovits (15:56):
‘Cause I see across the street they got one, uh, little, you know, Charlie Mingus and people.
Right. Like, and we suppose… We, we don’t have to go to fucking Hollywood to see that shit. We come from over here. Most of the people that made it, that’s got these stars are from this side.
David Hershkovits (16:10):
Why doesn’t Snoop have a fucking star on Long Beach?
David Hershkovits (16:13):
Why not? Like, that’s his neighborhood. Kids need to be able to go see that.
David Hershkovits (16:19):
So do you feel like your… have support from the community? Not just there, but the ones that left and have become successful and, and helping you to achieve your goals.
I just think it’s bigger me right now. You hear what I’m saying? It’s bigger than just celebrities wanting to do something. It’s gonna take some real, you know, some real know-how’s. It’s gonna take some people that’s gonna have time to really devote to getting that done. You hear what I’m saying? but as far as the seriousness and whatever cache we need to get or whatever cause we need to make or whatever [inaudible 00:16:50] need to have, I ready to have them. I’ve had some, I’ve had some talks with some people but, again, I’m tired of talking. You been around me for this last week, I do a lot of doing.
David Hershkovits (17:00):
You hear what I’m saying? And, if somethings getting held up for no reason at all, and I.. and I’ve heard stories of other people from Compton trying to do certain shit and they just not allowing them. It might all be something we need to go look into.
David Hershkovits (17:14):
But we gonna see, man. I have a positive outlook on it. I think it’s gonna get done in the next two, three years for sure.
David Hershkovits (17:20):
‘Cause you’ve worked with some of the biggest names, right? Snoop, Kendrick, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa. So there’s a lot of clout there and… among those people.
I mean, yeah. Successful black people, man. We sticking together a little bit more right now. So it’s nothing but a few phone calls to make it go down. It’s just they just gotta-
David Hershkovits (17:39):
They just gotta let me, man. They just gotta let me show them so, um, I think it’s tough. People don’t really see shit until it’s in their face. Not everyone’s a visionary, and not everybody can see the end of something.
David Hershkovits (17:53):
Unless I put this in your hand, (laughs) you’d never thought that-
David Hershkovits (17:58):
… like, who invented this? Somebody was like, you know what? I don’t want hold my tape. And somebody looked at them stupid. And he’s like, nah, I wanna just be able to pull it and pop it. Probably, somebody looked at him stupid until they put it in their hand and was like, “Oh, yeah, this is great contraption.”
David Hershkovits (18:11):
THat’s what the fuck we going on with. What up, boy? The mayor.
David Hershkovits (18:18):
In Hollywood it seems to be similar situation because, you know, when you propose, like, uh, a interesting new idea or a new approach to something they don’t…. Uh, I don’t know. Nobody’s done this. But once somebody’s done it, everybody wants-
That’s the point, man.
David Hershkovits (18:32):
… to the copy of that, right.
I go through that with dealing with, like, these music roll outs and all this shit. I hate the word normally and usually. That means it’s been done before, and I don’t care. I don’t wanna hear that. I’m trying to create a new future. I don’t… We can pull from the past, but I’m not trying to recreate the past. I’m trying to add to this. You get what I’m saying? So I hate when people say, “Well, yeah. Well, normally we… and, and then usually when we do this…” and, and it don’t be no real dub music, it was the dub that one time you all did it. But I’m tired of hearing about that.
David Hershkovits (19:07):
So where does your… all your positivity come from? Is that from moms or is it that you feel-
My mom, my wife, my wife mainly. My team. Uh, my, my babies.
David Hershkovits (19:25):
I mean, yeah, man. I’m, I’m-, I’m-
David Hershkovits (19:25):
It’s probably, uh, you know, a lot of it has to do with you.
But, I mean, they make me. You get what I’m saying? Like, you are your surroundings. You know what I’m saying? Like, you are your surroundings. So without them shooting energy to me to even believe that I can accomplish some this shit I’m trying pull of, you know what I’m saying? It all, it all goes to them. God, you know, the real is, like, I wanna make my last name mean something ’cause that’s all you really got. I want that shit to mean something. I want when your apart of… When your a Martin, my daughters and, and, and my family, they can say, “Damn, like, they put our name on the map. This shit is forever.” Like the crafts are forever. You get what I’m saying?
David Hershkovits (20:04):
I’m into that.
David Hershkovits (20:06):
And, and the movie that you made, A Day in Compton, what-
Sh- short film, it was called A Compton Story.
David Hershkovits (20:11):
A Compton Story, sorry. Uh, that was on title, Apple released it, right? It’s still there?
Uh, yeah. I’ve pulled it off. We’re about to re-release part one with part two.
David Hershkovits (20:20):
And, um, I have my brother, Terrace Martin, um, come rescore the whole thing. So he, he added a whole jazz element to the whole situation.
David Hershkovits (20:27):
David Hershkovits (20:28):
Shout out to my brother, Terry.
David Hershkovits (20:30):
… So that’s gonna be the same re-… uh, added to the original or…
Though I remix the… I’ll be the first ever-
David Hershkovits (20:36):
Oh, my God.
… that remakes a movie (laughs).
David Hershkovits (20:36):
No. I love it.
Let me go remix the first one and the second one is going to release with it [crosstalk 00:20:43].
David Hershkovits (20:43):
So tell me what… why you made it and what you expected as, uh… to come out of it?
To keep it clean, I just wanted to try to do a short film. It… I got... I just didn’t want to ask nobody. So one day I just was like shit, I’m gonna learn about it. I’m gonna watch some master classes. I’m gonna get on YouTube. I’m gonna figure out some things. I’m… I edit music so the meticulous, the meticulousness that it takes, I, I don’t mind it. So I can sit there and cut all day.
So I was like let’s go for it. Let’s see what it do. I literally was like… It was, like, taping together that first one (laughs), but I… I’d rather go there and say I tried to do this myself, I used my own money so then when I go to go do it bigger, I can say well look, this is what I did thus far. Then I just gotta [inaudible 00:21:26], well let me try to do it again. I wanna learn myself. Like, I want to be able to say I can do everybody’s job in the room from the camera holding to the, to the (laughs) audio to the direction. So then, when I have to do it from a bigger seat, I can say, “Well, no,. That’s not right. I want to do it like this.”
David Hershkovits (21:41):
So you did all of that in this… So which one did you like most and (laughs) which one don’t you like?
Man, the first one, I love it because it was the first, And it was like I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. And I appreciate everybody that came out and shot, Mike Epps, everybody that helped me with it. And then, the second one, I like a whole lot more just because the storyline is there. Uh, it was shot better. Um…
David Hershkovits (22:07):
Oh. So you re-shot? You did more work on it?
Uh, the second, part two?
David Hershkovits (22:10):
Um, I definitely… It’s definitely shot better.
David Hershkovits (22:12):
Definitely, shot better.
David Hershkovits (22:14):
He saw… I think he saw a couple of them. I’ll stop playing. But, uh, for my first two projects I’m like okay, I can really go do this now.
David Hershkovits (22:22):
But it’s, it’s part of, like, the writing, directing, performing, which one of those did you like? Producing?
I actually liked editing, editing and, and scoring the most. To be perfectly honest with you, I really would like to create new stars. I’m not really trying to be in front of the camera like that. The… adding the music and the editing was the shit for me. Like, that’s the best time.
David Hershkovits (22:46):
So you’re done with acting, is not the next step.
‘Cause you are starring it.
Tell us a little bit about the story and where, where it came from.
Well, the, the story is just… it’s just, it just, man, it’s , it’s basically like, uh, have you ever seen Real Husbands of Hollywood with Kevin Hart?
David Hershkovits (22:59):
Yeah. Oh, sure ( laughs). That was hysterical.
It’s like real life moments but just simple things like problem trying to get from A to Z, and the things that happen from begin to A to Z. It can be funny shit. It can be gangsta shit, but it’s all just me trying to get back home every day. So that’s basically what the premise is. It’s not really deep. The real art and the magic in it is in the music and the comedians and actors that’s in it. You know what I’m saying. Uh, DeRay Davis narrated the second one. Xizbit’s in the second one, Jackie Long’s in the second one, and my Mike Epps narrated the first one. So yeah, man.
David Hershkovits (23:33):
When’s that gonna come out, the second one?
Uh, we’re figuring it out now. We got some people that wanna, um, do some different deals for them so probably next year, probably next, top of next year.
David Hershkovits (23:44):
So Nipsey is someone who, obviously did an enormous for the community, and he paid the price in a way, right? When he was shot, do you feel that was-
Nah. I don’t think, I don’t think… I think, I think-
David Hershkovits (23:58):
… he stuck his neck out too far.
No. I think, I think that’s some real L.A. shit that just happens and, you know, And I’ll just, I’ll leave it that. I, I wouldn’t say you can’t, you can’t say don’t come back somewhere and then be somewhere and then we… when something bad happens be like, “Well don’t go back no more.” I just think he…that was, that was tragic. It should have never happened. And we’ll just, we’ll, we’ll leave it at that.
David Hershkovits (24:26):
So, okay. What about music then? Where, where do you feel how it’s looking today ’cause a lot of, you know, like, hip hop has become like the pop music of our generation. It’s just every where at this point. Um, have you feel like it’s lost anything of… because of that so it… ’cause it has to be so pop
David Hershkovits (24:46):
…when it comes to telling stories or messages?
I think with anything, it’s to make as much money as is generated. It’s just going to get diluted, and that’s just where we are right now. There’s no, there’s no wall. There’s no gate. You can just do it. Like, right now, you can do a rap song right now, upload it, and be right next to Drake on a playlist. Like, that’s insanely sick to me. Like, I cannot just go buy tickets to the game at the Staples and then get a jersey and play with LeBron.
David Hershkovits (25:15):
You hear what I’m saying? So that’s what fucked up.
David Hershkovits (25:19):
Maybe the Celebrity All-Star game (laugh).
Well, even that. Even, I become a celebrity to do that. So I can’t no Joe Schmoe… any Joe Schmo can do music now, so it’s diluted it. And it’s really, it’s really fucking up the money in the industry in, in real life. You get what I’m saying? The true art, the true talent is now like, well, I’m just doing it to, to make money off of something else. I’m victim of that right now, you know?
Coffee and Kush, the albums, have turned into this business, this ecosystem on purpose because I saw what going on. I’m like nah, the music, the music been pimping me for years. It’s time for me to pimp my own music. I’m gonna monetize off of it. But the fact that I got to think about that instead of just, like, I want to make the best fucking song ever, and then it’s gonna go to the people. You’re competing with fuckin’ 70,000 releases every Friday? What?
David Hershkovits (26:12):
Really? That’s what it is?
Yes. That’s insane. That’s insane, bra. Like, every Friday. Like, I remember when you use to tell a girl, “Yeah, I rap.” She be like, “Damn, that’s fly.” You say that shit now, they like what else you do? Like, what the fuck? That’s crazy.
David Hershkovits (26:33):
Right, you gotta be doing other things.
David Hershkovits (26:35):
And you are doing other things. I mean, you’ve, you’ve-
I’m just saying.
David Hershkovits (26:38):
… You got a TV show that you’re looking to put together, right?
I gotta couple things in the works.
David Hershkovits (26:43):
give me a little bit of what your day is like, in terms of work,
David Hershkovits (26:49):
I also read… I did a little bit of research that you had, kind of, changed your whole life around at one point.
David Hershkovits (26:57):
And it… can… tell us what happened in that respect?
Uh, well, yeah, I was known for this free-spirited party, party animal, rapper with a little hint of danger in him. You know, I was, I was a good time, fun time, a lot women around, a lot of everything around. And, um, you know, my daughters started getting older.
David Hershkovits (27:22):
And, that shit played a big deal in when I had to start set, I remember when she got into high school. And her first day of high school, I was so excited. Like, damn, she’s going to high school. It’s going to be dope. And then she hits me like, “Dad, “I’m mad at you.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” She’s like, “The kids at school, they’re playing a song about your thing.”
David Hershkovits (27:41):
And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” “Some song you did called D2B, de-,de-,” the song is Dick Too Bomb is the name of the song.
David Hershkovits (27:49):
And she’s like, “They’re playing this ,and they’re talking about you, and this is suppose to be my first day of school.” I’m, like, I’m feeling horrible because, I mean, in one instance this was just me earlier rapping ,and this is what’s making my money. But now, it’s affecting my baby’s day. So I was like, oh, I gotta switch this shit up, you know, what I’m saying? I have to switch it up. I have to figure it out. And then I realized the fans wasn’t ready for me to switch shit. They still wanted me to do the shit that I’d done before. So I was like, okay, I gotta really rebrand. So even just the growing pains of figuring out what am I fixing to do next? What am I about to do next? What am I gonna try next. All these different things just so I can keep making some money. I just start losing my momentum.
I was like fuck that, man. I gotta go back to the truth ’cause this Mollywood shit was the truth. It was no fakes. That shit is the truth. It wasn’t nothing fake. My truth is I really get up… I just walked with my wife at 5:30 in the morning to go get coffee, and I smoke weed, and I handle business all day. Let’s talk about this. Talked to my daughters on the way to here, go check on my mom. Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about the trials and tribulations of trying to change. How fucked up. Let’s talk about the real, and it’s working.
David Hershkovits (29:03):
how did you change? What did-
I just started talking about what was really in front of me and not what was me, and motherfuckers just have to catch up. And-
David Hershkovits (29:12):
And the response? What did people… like, say what’s wrong with Problem? What, uh… (laughs).
I mean, shit, the response is, now, I’m sitting here getting interviewed by you. (Laughs).
David Hershkovits (29:19):
Yeah. Yeah. No, and then that’s… Now, were doing good. Let’s-
And we got these… Okay. And we got these cool cannabis companies going. It seems like it’s working out but the… It was rough as fuck, like, you know… It, it’s just, like, it’s like if Batman wore a new outfit-
David Hershkovits (29:34):
…and you’re, like, I want him to put on that other shit, and I, I get it. I get it from a fan’s perspective, but what people have to understand is that the new artist can’t go hide and come out on album time, so I have to be totally 100 authentic. I cannot play in no kind of fakeness because the new fan will figure it out. Oh, he’s just joking. That ain’t really his house. That ain’t really his car. That’s not really what he do. They more into, like, you’re authenticity. You get what I’m saying. Not this big, fake shock moment of wearing jewelry and socks at the beach-
David Hershkovits (30:05):
…when that’s not what the fuck you wear at the beach. So, like, I’m, I’m gonna dive into this side of who I am, and, and, that’s where I’m at. And, you know, were gonna see how it all plays out.
David Hershkovits (30:16):
Now, that, that requires discipline, too. You can’t just pull… flip a switch and suddenly you’re s-
You can definitely just start telling the truth. And that’s the switch a lot need to hear (laughs) ’cause the truth wins every fuckin’ battle, every one you ever gonna be in. I don’t-
David Hershkovits (30:29):
Did you lose a lot friends or any… as a result of that? Did you have to find, like, a whole… You know, like, when people go through-
David Hershkovits (30:35):
…whatever AA or something and they have to, like, change their life and drop their friends because, you know-
David Hershkovits (30:41):
…bad influences and things like that.
No. I come from a real forceful crew. My friends are gonna have to get with it. If you start fuckin’ with me just ’cause I don’t do what you do, that means you weren’t really my friend anyway. If I got agree with you, and you got to agree with me for us to be friends, get your ass away from me. I ain’t you’re girlfriend, n–a (laughs).
David Hershkovits (30:57):
It’s words. So, no, this is how I am. This is me. And we adjust, we adjust. If we love each other, we’ll just adjust. But my being me doesn’t hurt or hinder anybody ’cause I’m not here for that. So it, it was… I don’t think it was really that hard. I still talk to all the same people I’ve always talked to, honestly. I got some new people that’s around, though, that I actually adore. You know, some more like-minded people that are on the wave that I’m on. You hear what I’m saying?
David Hershkovits (31:25):
And merging that with my homies that always kind of thought like this but we just have a new way of saying it.
David Hershkovits (31:31):
And is this what’s propelling you forward into these other-
David Hershkovits (31:36):
…work and the TV series-
David Hershkovits (31:39):
… or anything.
The rap, the rap business prepares you is, is the best business college you’re ever gonna go to ’cause it’s the fuckin’ worst business in history.
David Hershkovits (31:45):
It’s a, it’s a bad ass loan. It’s a terrible loan deal. Like, even the best deals, even the best of the best deals is a bad, bad, bad loan. You get what I’m saying. It’s a bunch of people that loaned you money that’s trying to tell you what to do with the money that you-
David Hershkovits (32:01):
You mean the record industry, you mean?
… Yeah, it’s the… they gotta tell you what to do. They trying to tell you what to do with the money that they gave you that you gotta pay triple back on. You got me fucked up (laughs). That doesn’t make any sense. So, if you can survive in this, you can do any business ’cause that’s not how a real business work. Music business plays off mental manipulation. When you, when you swap your intellectual properties, niggas trying to price tag it. Well, this song is worth 99 cents, says fuckin’ who? No, (laughs).
David Hershkovits (32:30):
How much are your mix tapes, do you sell them?
Back in the day?
David Hershkovits (32:34):
We was just trying to get them off to get them everywhere, but some people, they’ll hearing a pricing, they’ll like it and give us more. It was, like, back then it was straight on CDs and shit like that.
David Hershkovits (32:44):
That’s why I love the Nipsey when he sold his-
Yeah. That was genius. When he did that shit-
David Hershkovits (32:48):
… mix tapes for like a hundred bucks or whatever.
… that was crazy. That was crazy. I remember when he did that I was, like, whoa, this player. He was always ahead of the curve though, always, always. Always though, like, always been ahead of the curve, people have to catch up to him.
David Hershkovits (33:04):
You seem very open which I find refreshing in way because a lot people, they’re not open to meeting new people. They’re not open to new ideas. You know, they feel like that got it and-
David Hershkovits (33:17):
… You know, you just sort of gotta go along with them or, you know, as observing you as for the.. you know, a couple of days as a habit just feels like you’re very open to new ideas, new people, just-
David Hershkovits (33:28):
… you know, hear what people got to say.
I mean, I feel, like, how can I truly judge something if I never heard it, if I don’t know it, if it hasn’t said something to me. Like, that, that doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s like I, I have to know if I like you. I don’t like you. I can’t just make that assumption off of a greeting.
David Hershkovits (33:46):
And you’ve always been like that?
I’ve always been like that, but I feel like my delivery and, for lack of a better term this wardrobe, makes it more inviting. Prior to when you saw me before, my bravad o was louder. You know, I got on shades. I got on big ass chains. I got on jewelry.
David Hershkovits (34:08):
Probably ain’t got no shirt on. But I thought, I thought exactly like this, but it didn’t look like I did so it was, like, I’m more inviting this way. Like, somebody who can walk up to me-
David Hershkovits (34:18):
Yes. I see what you mean. Yeah.
…and be like, “Oh, he’s, he’s probably cool.” You know what I’m saying?
David Hershkovits (34:20):
Not intimidating in the look and…
Right. I got tattoos all over the place. My name is Problem. I’m from Compton.
David Hershkovits (34:25):
That already scares the shit out of everybody.
David Hershkovits (34:28):
Well, so tell me about your name then. What’s the genesis of that?
Man, Problem arrived from me playing basketball.
David Hershkovits (34:33):
That’s that… I, I got named that from hooping. Like, they were like, “You a problem on the court, we’re going to start calling you problem.” And that’s where my name came from. People assume it was from me doing bad shit.
David Hershkovits (34:44):
(Laughs). That wouldn’t
I didn’t start doing bad ’till I got older which is fucking crazy too,
Yeah. Then it was, like, fuck this and then having children early and dealing with the court systems and shit. I just went on a whole, like, blah, I’m going against the world. Fuck the system, da, da, da. Had that little run and, you know, we out of it now, though (laughs).
David Hershkovits (35:11):
[crosstalk 00:35:11] talk negative, you know, in a way about the music business and industry and so on. So what do you tell young people who want to do that, who want to be you, who want to be successful in the music business? They want to be rappers.
Do it your way. Do it your way, from beginning to end. Do it you way and… but, when you do it your way, just know it’s gonna take a little longer, and it’s gonna take a lot of money. So, if you don’t have a lot of money or a lot of time, you do their way faster, and get it out the way. Stack your money, then go to do it your way. But, eventually, get to doing it your way ’cause that shit’ll fuck with your heart. It’ll fuck with your whole thing. You know what I’m saying? Like… But, what I will say to people is understand where you at on the spectrum, too, a lot money. It’s going to take you a buck fifty to two fifty K to crack. And it’s gonna take
… like 18 hour days to crack, like to really crack the code. And it’s gonna take five to 10 years of 18 hour days with the buck-50.
No, understand it, like you’re not professional or anything until you put in your 11 years. You may hit a lick, you may get some money, you may get a win, but you not gonna really be in your shit until you went through that time period.
I went through a couple of them, shit. (laughing) I feel like, uh, shit, we, we was selling CDs and… Out here in 2002, 2001, 2003. Like, and then like when I say we, like I hit, like I really hit… 2012 is like when I really hit. Like well, okay, I’m monetizing off who I am and the brand and Diamond Lane is huge in the city.
David Hershkovits (37:07):
So what was it, what was the thing that turned it around? The label, the-
David Hershkovits (37:12):
… starting your own company?
Yeah. Well, my, my guy, man, shout out to my boy Bryant, Bryant Lawson, AKA Fastlane, his vision. He, somebody had grabbed me when I was vision-less, and applied his vision to my art. And that’s what created Problem. You get what I’m saying? Meaning, like, “Here, you should put this on. Here, you should wear your hat like this. Here, you should put your glasses on like this. They should be able to dress up like you for Halloween. If they ain’t do that-“
David Hershkovits (37:39):
“… You’re not a star yet.” This is what the, like, all of that shit that you need to do to really, like… I give all that credit to him. And he put his money where his mouth is.
David Hershkovits (37:49):
You know what I’m saying? This has been self-funded. Diamond Lane was self-funded by him for a long time. I had just recently was able to come in with my own cash and start assisting on a smaller scale. But him, he turned this thing
David Hershkovits (38:02):
And what was that relationship like? Was it just business or was it a friend or-
No, that’s my dog. This is my friends, too. We still do business.
David Hershkovits (38:09):
And you listened to him.
David Hershkovits (38:11):
You believed he knew what he was talking about.
Yeah, I listened to him.
David Hershkovits (38:13):
So that’s the key. That’s what I talk about-
[crosstalk 00:38:14], yeah.
David Hershkovits (38:15):
… being open, is like, a lot of… Someone might tell you something, that doesn’t mean you’re gonna do it or listen or believe.
The thing is, I trusted what he said just because, you know, he’s one of them type of people that, he wouldn’t say it If he didn’t give a fuck. You know what I’m saying? And I have a lot of people like that that I keep around, like-
David Hershkovits (38:35):
Is he an old friend, or how did you guys meet up?
Yeah, that’s my dog. We, met through my brother Nick and then we been just in the streets together.
David Hershkovits (38:42):
We was in the streets together for a lot of the early 2000s. And, like, he wanted to transition into something else, and I was transitioning into something else, it all just kinda happened at the right time, you know what I mean? But that did my dog before that, and he gonna be my dog after this. Like, we still do Diamond Lane together. You know what I mean?
David Hershkovits (39:01):
So you’re still, uh, into producing music and finding artists and working with artists and-
Yeah, totally. Airplane James is out doing crazy right now, he’s on tour with Beeno, shout out to him. Uh, I’m doing things with, uh, just recently brought Kaytranada’s brother, Lou Phelps over there. Uh, we gonna do something crazy with him. Um, I’m definitely gonna always keep my head in music, just because, A, I love it, and two, they need me there. ‘Cause I’m not gonna lie to nobody. I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like my opinion (laughing)
David Hershkovits (39:33):
You know, yeah, you’re not gonna tell ’em it’s good if it’s not, right?
No, then I’m not about to play with you. And the thing is, you know that, once you hear my independent story and the fact that I saw a lot of emails, I saw a lot of lawyers, we paid a lot of people. I know how radio works, TV works, the whole thing. If something shit, you just can’t lie to me about it. You can’t tell me this isn’t… Didn’t react because of this. The way you win this game is spending the most money, just like in every other fucking game
David Hershkovits (39:56):
Oh, shit. That’s this-
So you know who’s hot and who’s not by who spends money, not who d- will the most talented.
David Hershkovits (40:02):
Wow, that’s, that’s-
Ding! That’s, that’s-
David Hershkovits (40:03):
… that’s how you win the game, period. It’s it, that’s the only way.
David Hershkovits (40:10):
I’ve seen talented people with a whole lotta money become super famous. So no.
David Hershkovits (40:18):
But you’ve seen talented people with no money, not gut it.
Not go nowhere.
David Hershkovits (40:23):
Now you’ll get a few. You’ll get one out of a million, on both sides. But what happens when the right amount of finance gets put into somebody talented, you get Drake. You get Kendrick Lamar. You get J. Cole.
David Hershkovits (40:42):
But they already had done something themselves, too, right? No?
Mm, they… Yeah, I mean, you, you have… You… The thing is one don’t work without the other, because you can have all the money but then you gonna have to put more if the talent is weak.
David Hershkovits (40:52):
Yeah. It’s, it’s true. But, you know, we never know, uh, I don’t know ’cause I’m not an insider like you, but what the true story is ( laughing) behind-
David Hershkovits (41:01):
… a lot of these big stars and successes, you know?
… you can tell how much your label… You can tell how much your label care about you by how much money they spend. Period. Period. It ain’t deeper than that. If they spend the money, you’ll be everywhere. You’ll get a real, legitimate shot. I just told you, 70,000 fucking records drop every Friday. The odds of you getting picked out of that is insane.
David Hershkovits (41:25):
What about, like, these, these new social, you know, TikToks or whatever that-
David Hershkovits (41:31):
… you’ve got a new platform that you think-
David Hershkovits (41:32):
… can throw you out there?
… amazing, too. But you gotta throw money to that, too. It’s mo-… Listen. There is no business-
David Hershkovits (41:40):
… that’s going to work without putting-
David Hershkovits (41:41):
… in 150 to $250,000 to start. There’s not one business. You’ll get lucky, but then at some point you gonna have to dump some money into it. Even if you get lucky. This show right here? Right now. Imagine it with 250,000 thrown in it. This one. Right here, right now.
David Hershkovits (42:04):
Oh, yeah. Yeah, John, yo! (laughing).
Yeah, John, what’s up, man, what’s up? (laughing) You see? J- just imagine. Bigger guests, bigger camera, bigger this… Bigger everything. That’s every business ever.
David Hershkovits (42:18):
Yeah. Well, the marketing, the promotion. What you are talking about, right?
Wherever you put the money at. Like, me, I would rather 250,000 get put into marketing this-
David Hershkovits (42:28):
… episode than the setup.
David Hershkovits (42:30):
It’s the information. We want ’em to hear, you know, talent. The way you interview, like-
David Hershkovits (42:35):
Yeah. That’s, that’s the game.
David Hershkovits (42:37):
Get it out, distribution-
David Hershkovits (42:39):
… whether it’s-
How many people gonna see [crosstalk 00:42:40]-
David Hershkovits (42:40):
… cannabis, whether it’s music, you gotta get it out to the people.
They gotta see it. They gotta be everywhere. It has to be everywhere. That’s why the thing with Burb. For me, for Burb to make an impact in LA? Throw them fucking billboards up, let everybody see we outside now. And the first, I’m talking the first thing that happen when I pulled up to this coffee shop, my friend, my good friend Ill Camille said, “Hey, what is Burb?” That was the first thing she said to me when she got out the car.
David Hershkovits (43:09):
Why’d she ask you?
Because she saw me postin’ it.
David Hershkovits (43:12):
But she saw the billboard outside, though-
David Hershkovits (43:14):
Ah, uh-huh (affirmative).
… and was like, “I don’t… What is this? Is it fashion? Is it this?” And that, and that’s exactly… That, that leads to all of this. Burb is coming to California to put… Make a mark, everywhere. With fire weed and the fire expression. And you gonna see the difference in the brand.
David Hershkovits (43:37):
David Hershkovits (43:39):
Thank you, Problem. Telling us the story, straighten me out about the Compton.
David Hershkovits (43:46):
Naw, you straightened me out about New York-
David Hershkovits (43:48):
… with all the fire. You told me some stuff, I’m like, “You’re right. You definitely right.” I’m gonna make sure I get out to that Blue Note, too. I gotta go check out-
David Hershkovits (43:55):
Make sure you all go see-
David Hershkovits (43:56):
… Robert Glassper in the whole Blue Note. They gonna be out there-
David Hershkovits (44:00):
Tell ’em, yeah.
my brother, it’s gonna be a lot of people out there.
David Hershkovits (44:02):
Please let me know if you come, ’cause I would love to host you and go with you to see some shows and stuff.
Naw, definitely. I gotta see that [inaudible 00:44:09], ’cause that’s how New York is gonna invade the cannabis space.
David Hershkovits (44:13):
All right. You heard it here. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much, Problem.
Thank you, brother.
Bernard Noble + Fab 5 Freddy
Bernard Noble and Fab 5 Freddy on the unjust history of cannabis and reparations owed to people of color
Cheryl Dunn, street photographer and creator of "Moments Like This Never Last," a documentary on the artist Dash Snow