It’s been a recurring theme for one-hit wonder artists to come and go within a matter of weeks. Apply the ceaseless creation of internet content, and it’s difficult to tell who will remain after their 15 minutes of fame. But every so often, we run into the rare artist who’s marked for longevity; it seems like Rich Brian is one of them.
For the unfamiliar, Brian Immanuel, or Rich Brian, formerly known as Rich Chigga, is an 18-year-old rapper from Indonesia who first caught internet hype with his music video “Dat $tick” in 2016. Since then, he’s taken off with support from label 88rising making appearances alongside high profile hip-hop artists like Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan and Pharrell Williams, appearing in features, and releasing a steady stream of singles and music videos.
Considering label 88rising’s common theme of bridging the cultures where East meets West, Immanuel’s debut album ‘Amen’ further solidifies the East as a consistent source in present hip-hop culture. Simultaneously, in an age where Asia is usually associated with China, Japan or Korea, Immanuel puts Indonesia on the map with several nods to his hometown Jakarta throughout the album.
‘Amen’, written and produced mostly by Immanuel, released on Feb. 2, hitting number one on the iTunes hip-hop charts and number four on the all genres charts. Brian’s comedic and satirical personality still appears throughout the album, but very much expects to be taken seriously. As the album progresses, you can’t deny the work that was put into it.
The strongest point of the album is the production; each beat is fairly unique and keeps a consistent energy throughout the album. “Cold,” “Flight,” “See Me” and “Glow Like Dat” are some of my favorite cuts in the project. “Attention” was actually used in the pre-release teasers for the album and was one of my favorites beats off the project. Unfortunately the track fell short with the feature, Offset from the rap group Migos, feeling more like an add-on rather than a collaborative track. The other features from AUGUST 08 and labelmates Joji and NIKI, however, shined where “Attention” fell short.
Despite his rise during the trap era, Immanuel maintains his own style of steady flow and sporadic off the wall quips. There is a pattern in his style that either follows as bangers like “Chaos” or more melodic joints like “Glow Like Dat.” I think Immanuel shines more on the latter; cuts like “Flight,” “Little Prince” and “See Me.” Whereas, in the former, Immanuel’s flow starts to fade a little too much into the heavier lower tempo beats like “Trespass” and “Enemies.”
For one whose first language isn’t English, he demonstrates an impressive mastery of the language despite learning from YouTube and other internet outlets. Moving past the typical rap tropes, a lot of the tracks reference his journey since going viral, being homesick, and his relative naivety being thrown into a new lifestyle almost overnight. In “See Me,” he mentions feeling like he’s skipping over years of his youth due to his success and the loneliness that comes with it, saying he only hangs with the other artists on his label whom he calls 88’s.
The greatest thing about the album is that it is a milestone for Brian to look back on. Both his fans and himself acknowledge that he is young and has grown from the first time we saw him donning his fanny pack in 2016 and will continue to grow. The album overall may not be perfect but it is impressive to see how far Brian’s gone in such a short amount of time. Including the visuals to accompany these tracks in the near future, there’s a lot to look forward to from the self proclaimed Indonesian MC Hammer.