In the wake of last week’s deadly shootings, Problem joined The Game and Snoop Dogg for a demonstration in downtown Los Angeles on Friday (Jul. 8). Like many, the Cali MCs were frustrated, sad, and angry about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police. So, they decided to march in what would become a powerful moment in L.A.
For Problem, this was important because the deaths of Sterling and Castile felt personal. “Both of those situations could have been me and my children,” he tells Rap-Up. “They would have had to watch me die and somebody would have to explain that to them. They would have to relive these moments for the rest of their lives. That terrifies me.”
Game understood Problem. They exchanged text messages filled with hurt and sadness following Sterling and then again after Castile. Snoop had also been speaking with Game at the time so they decided to do something symbolic.
About 30 minutes after confirming their plans to march, more bodies dropped. This time, five police officers were gunned down by a sniper at a Dallas protest. “When those five cops were killed, it hurt me,” Problem reveals. “I don’t want to see nobody dead. I don’t want to see nobody hurt. It allowed me to step inside their shoes for a minute…Nobody dying unjustly is right.
“So, the mission actually changed when that happened because at this point, both sides were able to get in the other side’s shoes,” he added. “Seven people were murdered in those 48 hours. That’s not the solution.”
— Mayor of Los Angeles (@MayorOfLA) July 8, 2016
Fueled by all this, the march began at 5 a.m. the next morning where, as Problem puts it, “magic” happened. Unbeknownst to them, LAPD cadets would be graduating that same morning at a ceremony outside of department headquarters, across the street from City Hall. That happened to be right in the middle of their march.
“That was God,” says Problem. “We didn’t know that [the graduation was taking place]. When we walked up, they didn’t know what we were there for either. They were like, ‘What’s gonna happen?’ They all turned around and looked and it was 400 black, Latino, and white men standing behind a gate, lined in unison. For a minute, it was like, ‘What’s gonna go down?'”
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck definitely noticed. They happened to attend the LAPD ceremony, and seeing the protest, opened a conference room for an impromptu meeting with the rappers. It lasted about an hour. Behind those doors, Problem says they went around the room, sharing thoughts. He focused on police officers being more involved in the communities they police. “I was born and raised to be afraid of you,” he recalls saying. “You guys have to change that.”
“It was beautiful,” he says, looking back on it now. “[It] showed that we can start somewhere. I don’t think that changed anything, not just yet, but it’s a start.”
The process will continue. Problem says they plan on meeting privately once more this week. “We’re gonna try to start figuring out how to attack this situation from the inside out,” he adds. “We’ll be the voice of our communities.”
He’s also aware that, as he continues to do things like this, not everyone will be supportive. Instagram commenters have called him “a ploy” and they wonder why he’s talking to the city’s leaders. “What else can we do?” he asks. “Sit here and watch each other die? You gotta do something, man. Sitting on your ass, making comments about everybody else out here doing something don’t make sense to me.”
This type of activism is having an impact on Problem in many ways. “I was in the studio last night and I can feel the difference in the way I’m delivering everything,” he says, “not just in the lyrics, but in the way I see my life has to start going. Life is all in chapters. Nobody’s the same the whole ride. You’re not supposed to be. If you are, then you’re not trying to grow or you’re not ready to be the man God wants you to be.”
Fans can expect to hear that growth on the re-release of Rosecrans, his joint project with DJ Quik, due in the next few months. This week, he also started working on a solo album. “[I’m] definitely about to make a change in the way I’m viewed musically,” he explains. “Ready to get out here and make a move, and show everybody why I am a staple on this coast.”