Since hip-hop first became a commercial force in the early-to-mid '90s, the genre has been just as dedicated to chronicling the pressures of success as it has been to document the struggle of its creators. We’ve known since “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” that success comes with its own price tag and we’ve seen countless artists over the years fall prey to the hidden pitfalls of making it big.
While Massachusetts-bred rapper Token has yet to reach the heights of Puff or Biggie, over the past few years, he’s discovered a host of “new problems” that have accompanied his increased notoriety.
In his latest song and its accompanying video, Token addresses this shift in circumstance and examines what success really looks like behind closed doors. The result is an unflinching stare into the very real everyday changes his life as undergone as a result of his newly acquired success.
In the first verse of the Jon Glass and J57-produced track, Token describes meeting what seemed to be the girl of his dreams while on tour opening for Hopsin. The dream state of new love, however, quickly gave way to codependent tendencies and thoughts of suicide, and Token’s intense vulnerability leaves no question as to this story’s basis in reality.
The second verse deals with an unnamed industry player the rapper connected with after gaining some attention, and a new-to-the-game Token is enamored with the anonymous “snake”’s connections and history. Again, the initial sheen evaporates as Token realizes that dealing with this person means forsaking his creative control and artistic vision, and frustratedly laments the fact that he can’t call the guy out by name for fear of infringement on his future opportunities.
Lastly, Token addresses the strain that success has placed on his relationship with his family, from the estrangement of his father to rumors perpetuated by those he once thought closest to him.
"It don’t even feel the same when I walk in my house / New rumors bout me every single day, like he don’t wanna chill with us he’d rather chill with sway / He think he better than us, he think he movin on / I go out, pretend to be social just to prove them wrong"
As with other Token releases, the realness on “New Problems” is palpable. The passion and pain in his voice are beyond anything one might be able to learn from acting classes—this kid is genuinely hurting, and the cause seems to be the life he always dreamed of.
The idea of success bringing misfortune has been a paradox many can’t wrap their minds around until they’ve experienced it, but Token’s accounts are dripping so heavily with reality that I couldn’t help but re-analyze my own criteria for success after the song had ended.
Token’s "New Problems" is a must-hear for any artist who wants nothing more than a big break and hip-hop fans who've been led to believe that life as a recording artist is nothing but milk and honey.
Hopefully, for Token's sake, his new problems eventually become old ones.