These last few years have seen a harrowing number of rappers die tragically, and the toll of those losses is clearly weighing on some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. The latest A-lister to reflect on death and trauma in the genre is A$AP Rocky, who released the solemn “Same Problems,” a heady track about the cyclical nature of violence in rap and its psychological ramifications.
Featuring cascading, tranquil guitar and bass work, “Same Problems” is a somber, contemplative turn for Rocky. Clocking in at more than four minutes and featuring mellow production, the song has a meditative quality, particularly when Rocky croons the hook.
“How many problems get solved? / Am I a product of things that I saw? / How many problems get solved? / Am I proud of the things in my songs?” he asks. Elsewhere on the single, Rocky recounts visceral stories of his hustling days in Harlem, sneaking in a reference to Kid Cudi’s seminal track “Day ‘N’ Nite.”
The record also features uncredited cameos from Lil Yachty and Miguel, both of whom Rocky has worked with in the past. (Rocky’s close friend and frequent collaborator Tyler, The Creator is also listed in the composer credits.) “Same Problems” being officially released on January 18 coincides with the anniversary of his friend and mentor A$AP Yams’ passing. In years past, A$AP Mob has organized a star-studded concert called Yams Day that falls on or around the 18th.
“Rest in peace to everybody we lost in hip-hop throughout the years. You gotta know that we the highest statistic of losing people. No other genre loses [people like this]–rock stars, pop singers, and country artists, hip-hoppers, we get killed and shot every day. Overdoses, all types of unfortunate events,” Rocky said while debuting the song in an Amazon Music live show. So this next song is dedicated to everybody we lost and anybody who ever lost somebody.”
In comments to Apple Music quoted by Stereogum, Rocky spoke about the genesis of the song and how it differs from his usual subject matter. He also highlighted the thematic connection between his first solo hit being titled “Fuckin’ Problems,” and this single ushering in a new era being “Same Problems.” The Amazon performance saw Rocky project images of deceased musicians, including DMX, Drakeo the Ruler, Takeoff, and Mac Miller. (There was also a tribute to Rocky’s father, Adrian Duke Mayers, who died in 2012.)
“I think I was also feeling a sense of guilt, because every time we lose somebody in our community, we all, especially me, have a habit of just saying things like, ‘It’s messed up. It’s wrong. Why do these kind of things happen?” he said. “I never took time out to really understand that I was part of the problem because I was contributing those kind[s] of lyrics and whatnot to songs. Without preaching too much, I just wanted to touch on something a bit different [as] opposed to just being braggadocious, flamboyant, and just regular rap content for me.”
In a December 6 interview with GQ, Rocky spoke more about his feelings of survivor’s guilt, expressing that reflecting on the recent 10-year anniversary of his debut studio album also means to reflect on a time when “all my friends weren’t dead, or dead to me.”
But Rocky is also using the memories of friends like Yams to inspire his highly-anticipated new album. During the Amazon performance, he announced the title, Don’t Be Dumb, and performed a handful of new songs, before closing the show with “Same Problems.” Rocky told GQ that Yams presence and impact would be keenly felt on the new LP, in part via the large amount of Metro Boomin production, as Yams first connected the Atlanta super-producer and New York MC a decade ago. “I’m gonna put it to you like this: This next album needs to be just called Flacko Boomin, you hear me?” he said.
Rocky also told Complex in December that fans wouldn’t have to wait much longer for his first album since 2018’s polarizing Testing.“…it’s not a situation where they are going to have to wait long. It’s like ASAP, no pun intended.”