Rocky’s public image is one dominated by his affinity towards luxury goods, his near perfect physical appearance, his undeniable swagger, his high profile relationship and his highly inspirational, genre defining, braggadocious rap cuts, yet deep down his career in the limelight is one tainted by grief and trauma.
On his last full-length effort TESTING, A$AP Rocky left fans with Purity alongside Frank Ocean.
On first listen, the album closer wows fans with a rare, diamond cut appearance from Ocean, who glides over the sample, I Gotta Find Peace Of Mind from Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 album.
As the dust settles on the album, the fan-adored cut holds its weight in gold thanks to Rocky's deeply introspective and personal performance, one where he addresses grief directly. He mourns openly on wax stating, “Face to face with my demons at a barstool, haven't checked on my niece in weeks,” and as his voice drops a tone he raps, “Lose someone every release, it feels like the curse is in me.”
It is rumoured A$AP Rocky’s sister passed away during the recording process for TESTING.
Rocky’s public image is one dominated by his affinity towards luxury goods, his near perfect physical appearance, his undeniable swagger, his high profile relationship and his highly inspirational, genre defining, braggadocious rap cuts which dominated the 2010s. On Purity, he shelves the invincibility of his public persona and grasps deeply at an emotion that has cursed his career, grief.
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Today, he faces loss head on with the release Same Problems? an ode to the creatives that the hip hop world has lost. The track was initially performed during his Amazon Music Live performance as the faces of artists who have passed shone behind him. He prefaced the performance stating, “Rest in peace to everyone we’ve lost in hip hop throughout the years, you got to know that we are the highest statistic of losing people. No other genre loses rockstars, pop singers and country artists. Hip hop [artists] we get shot and killed every day, overdoses, all types of unfortunate events. This next song is dedicated to everybody we lost and anybody who has ever lost somebody."
Images of DMX, Drakeo The Ruler, Juice WRLD, King Von, Lil Keed, The Notorious B.I.G, PNB Rock, Takeoff, Trouble, XXXTENTACION, Slim 400, A$AP Yams, Fredo Santana, Bankroll Fresh, Tupac, Pop Smoke, Young Dolph, Nipsey Hussle, Mac Miller, MF DOOM, Ricky Black and Adrian Duke Mayers are raised as Rocky sings, “How many problems get solved? / Am I a product of things that I saw?, How many problems get solved? / Am I a product of things in my songs?”
A$AP Rocky juxtaposes his flamboyant brand of rap content with a distinct humility, urging his fans and peers to understand that as a human, we all have the same problems. We can all relate.
In an interview with Zane Lowe he reflected on his headspace during the creative process of the track stating, "I was feeling a sense of guilt. Everytime we lose someone in our community we all and especially me, have a habit of saying things like, that’s messed up, that’s wrong… you ask a bunch of questions. I never took time out to understand I was part of the problem. I was contributing those lyrics to songs.
“Without preaching too much, I just wanted to touch on something a bit different opposed to just being braggadocious, flamboyant, and just regular rap content for me.”
“I just kind of wanted to express myself and tell how I felt without preaching.”
The track is released on Yams Day, the 8th anniversary of the death of 26 year old visionary A$AP Yams who co-founded the collective A$AP Mob which Rocky still reps to this day. Yams started the Harlem rap collective in 2006 and became the main orchestrator in the rap group’s career and success. He solidified the groups rapid ascension to pop stardom and put the crew on the map for their unique brand of New York hip-hop with Southern influences.
One of the first rappers to take on the A$AP moniker was Rocky, who helped him gain acclaim through his then viral Tumblr music blog. The page would act as the home for Rocky’s breakout hit Purple Swag. In an interview with A$AP Bari for Complex magazine in 2012, Bari stated that, “Yams is the reason why Rocky is at where he’s at right now, if it wasn’t for Yams, Rocky wouldn’t never be anywhere in the industry.”
Yams would go on to be the executive producer of Rocky’s breakout debut album Long. Live A$AP. The record solidified the sound that fans fell in love with Rocky for on the internet, with pitched down vocals, psychedelic infused cloudy beats with a traditionally Midwestern delivery. The sound that Yams had established set Rocky apart from all of his peers, creating music that sounded distinctly like their hometown of Harlem without sounding like traditional, Big Apple rap. Two weeks out from release and it's hit singles garnered commercial and critical success, Rocky shared the news online that he had lost his father.
"R.I.P DAD , UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN. SEE MY DADDY IN HEAVEN , HE BE DA REALIST G" TTTL," he Tweeted.
The album debuted at number one of the Billboard 200 and featured now smash hits including F*ckin’ Problems with Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, Wild For The Night with Skrillex & Birdy Nam Nam and Goldie. 10 years on, the record is still Rocky’s most commercially successful to date, showcasing his hometown to the world.
As Rocky began to take over the world, he put to work on his sophomore record At.Long.Last.A$AP which was also executive produced by Yams alongside Dangor Mouse. The work would be the last artefact created between Rocky and his best friend. The album was released on May 29th of 2015, 4 months after Yams’ accidental overdose.
The bars Rocky raps on Purity hit even more powerfully when reflecting on this moment, “Lose someone every release, it feels like the curse is in me.”
In an MTV News interview that came out a pair of months before the release of the album Rocky opened up on his friend’s death stating, “When it comes down to it, would I trade this music for Yams? Yes. Because in all reality, Yams is the only person that’s actually been through this shit with me and knows how I feel.”
Same Problems? acts as a full circle disclaimer on the trauma that Rocky has faced throughout his seemingly glowing and perfect career and lifestyle. As he sheds his masculine persona on the track, reflecting that his lyrical content may be a part of the issue, he also comes to terms with his grief and his true tumultuous experience while being in the limelight.
On his forthcoming record he told Zane Lowe, “The new stuff is me being vulnerable, and it’s just no filter, and just where I’m at at my stage. My age and how I see things, my peers, the younger kids, the older cats—it’s just my perspective.”