Ariana Grande‘s “Problem” started as a mere whisper. “I don’t remember where I came up with it,” Savan Kotetcha, the song’s co-writer, said to Rolling Stone. “Maybe in an airplane bathroom. On my phone I have an audio note where I whisper, ‘One less problem.’” Thanks to that audio note, “Problem” was almost a collaboration with Ying Yang Twins.
Kotecha, also Max Martin‘s protege and a lead producer for Grande’s next album, says that the song’s working title was “The Whisper Song,” as inspired by the Atlanta crunk duo’s 2005 hit “Wait (The Whisper Song).” Grande’s manager Scooter Braun then decided to get the Ying Yang Twins into the studio. “Scooter was obsessed with bringing in the Ying Yang Twins,” says Wendy Goldstein, Grande’s A&R rep at Republic Records. “We had them try, but they just flopped it. They couldn’t get it together.”
Considering the song’s roots, it’s tough to blame Braun for trying. The former Emory University student likely remembers “Wait (The Whisper Song)” (above), with its hushed verses of absolutely filthy propositions, from the days when he shot through the ranks of Atlanta’s hip-hop industry and threw high-profile parties for *NSYNC and Britney Spears. Plus, the Ying Yang Twins already had one pop song to their name: “(I Got That) Boom Boom,” off Spears’ In the Zone. Fortunately, Grande had someone else in mind.
“We figured it had to be a girl,” says Kotecha, of the decision to feature Iggy Azalea . “And there’s so few big-name female rappers in hip-hop. She came in without any drama, got behind the mic and just killed it.”
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