Ariana wasn’t sold on the song’s whispered chorus at first
While the song’s whispered chorus (courtesy of Big Sean) may have been key to the song’s success in 2014 and beyond, Ariana wasn’t completely sold on the idea when her producers described it in the studio. She told Rolling Stone at the time, “I was scared to approach it, because of the whispers,” and preferred a song structure that featured muted verses and a belt-heavy chorus rather than vice versa.
Big Sean’s uncredited appearance was a key part in the beginning of his and Ariana’s relationship
When Big Sean was brought in to handle the song’s chorus, it wasn’t the first time Ariana had collaborated with the Detroit-bred rapper. The two had worked together on her 2013 single “Right There,” and fans were quick to notice some on-stage chemistry during their performances of the song through the spring of 2014, when “Problem” was released. The two slowed it down for her single “Best Mistake” later that summer, and after exchanging public displays of affection, Ariana finally confirmed that October they were dating.
The Ying Yang Twins were originally supposed to be the featured rappers
One of the biggest claims to fame for the hip-hop duo Ying Yang Twins is their 2005 song “Wait,” alternatively titled (and more commonly referred to as) “The Whisper Song.” When “Problem” producer Savan Kotecha came up with the song’s hushed hook and tentatively titled it “The Whisper Song,” Grande’s production team desperately wanted to recruit the Ying Yang Twins for the featured rap verse. When the collaboration fell through, Grande was quick to push for Iggy Azalea, whom she’d grown to appreciate after the latter's 2013 single “Work.”
Iggy Azalea shouts out a few rap icons in her verse
It’s no secret that entendres and references are a key component for rap verses. In her turn on “Problem,” Iggy Azalea references a few big-name rappers who came before her: the lyrics “No half-steppin’/ Either you want it or you just playin’” hints at Big Daddy Kane’s 1988 single “Ain’t No Half Steppin’” and The Notorious B.I.G.’s oft-sampled “Just Playin’ (Dreams)”; Iggy also namechecks Biggie earlier in her verse. Finally, she ends her part saying she’s “got 99 problems but you won’t be one," an obvious reference to Jay-Z’s 2004 hit single “99 Problems.”
Rihanna found a performance of the song pretty enjoyable
When Ariana performed “Problem” at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards, pop icon Rihanna was in the audience laughing along to the performance. Fans speculated about whether or not the Bajan singer was laughing at or with Grande, but Ariana later clarified that she found Rihanna’s response to be lighthearted and not mean-spirited. In fact, Grande revealed that she and RiRi had had a talk after, and the "Umbrella" songstress had a good time during the performance, telling her, “Lil mama, keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working!”