The path to forgiveness begins with an apology. Acceptance isn’t guaranteed or promised, but the process of being forgiven doesn’t start without owning up to your impudence.
Rich Chigga becoming Rich Brian isn’t some grand expression of regret. I don’t expect his decision to change his stage name to band-aid the problematic parts of his viral arrival. What should be acknowledged is how the outrage he caused wasn’t simply undermined and wheelbarrowed into the recycling bin like hate spam; it actually reached Brian Imanuel. The decision to change his name was a sign of maturity, an artist who’d rather be taken seriously than see a potential future buried underneath juvenile ignorance.
Can Rich Brian become a star? Perhaps. Without shock value to create attention, and the controversy of his name removed from the equation, the music and videos take center stage. Does he have songs absent of insolence able to receive the viral presence of “Dat $tick?” Uncertain. Not having the answers, however, is what adds a layer of interest to his music.
If he’s no longer a parody of Southern trap rappers, who is Rich Brian? Once you strip away the name, guns, fanny pack, and attitude, he’s just another 18-year-old kid on the cusp of being bigger than his dreams or fading away before the next surprise Beyoncé album.
Amen, Rich Brian’s debut project—he refuses to call it an album—will set the precedence of his 2018, and quite possibly his entire career in music.
Following our traditional 1-Listen review rules, I must listen to Amen from start to finish without stopping, editing, rewinding, or fast-forwarding. Everything I write will be based on my gut reaction.
The bassline is wobbling harder than Lil Bow Wow’s shoulders doing the Harlem Shake. For a brief moment, I had flashbacks to Mike WiLL’s “DNA.” Not as crazy, not even close, but hard-hitting out the gate. Flow is Migos-esque, not as fast, but he’s in their pocket. Brian has a nice vocal texture. Perfect for rap. A free-flowing intro. The percussion sounds like milk bottles being clung together. “I don’t need no education internet my favorite teacher.” I felt this on a spiritual level. There are some personal rhymes here, but you can tell he’s obviously still in the teenage adolescent stage of self-reflection. Production is nice, though.
The build-up reminds me of Luigi’s Mansion. Ominous and weird. Drums have a nice leg drop. I’m liking this much better than the intro. Smooth. Mentioned his dad as the call for wisdom, and cabs for his alcoholic nights. A role model. The loneliness reminds me of a less problematic Tyler. “Cold” is a nice vibe. The beat just exploded into a wide range of colors, rainbow chords and stark drums. Lovely breakdown. “I don’t take drugs, I just take naps.” Ha. The flow is laser sharp here. Impressive. He mentions never using triplet flows because he’s not a Migo, hahaha very aware of critics. “Cold” should’ve been the album opener. I’m a bit more excited now. He has an idea of what he wants his sound to be and the bars aren’t bad, just youthful. Brian is telling his truth and I’m enjoying it.
Taking a second to appreciate the cover, very icy. Vintage frames are back. OK, back to the song. I’m loving the knock. My gut tells me this could be a banger but I also didn’t eat breakfast so that could be the growl of starvation. “Occupied” is music on the pulse, a RapCaviar add. Infectious, you just have to bounce. Hoping the flow gets a bit more inventive as the album progresses. Is this the hook? I’m not sure if I’ve heard any hooks yet. Everything has been short. He just threatened his runner if he doesn’t have his Chick-fil-A; look at what America is doing to young Brian. What I referred to previously was indeed the hook, even though he delivers everything once and moves on instead of making the listener chant along. Maybe he’s not a fan of repetition.
4. “Introvert” ft. Joji
A change in tempo. A nice curveball. Keys are ambient. Drums are hard. Harder than juveniles convicted of shoplifting. He’s singing. Singing. Joji? The voice is too mellow to be Brian. I’m not in love with the album’s songwriting. I do like the bounce of this beat, even though it’s more mellow than energetic. I’ve walked through graveyards after dark with more life than what I’m hearing from this hook. The second verse is smooth. He has a nice melodic suaveness. With a better singer, this song could’ve really popped. I like its sugary, Rice Krispies Treats pop sound but a song this sweet is supposed to get stuck between molars like a popcorn hull and it completely fails to do so.
5. “Attention” ft. Offset
I’m looking forward to this one. Slow buildup. So many of his piano loops sound like they were ripped from video games. I almost punched my laptop screen with the way these drums just came in. Warning: this song will encourage you to move as if a thousand fire ants have crawled down your pants. It’s the only reasonable reaction. Brian’s verse is pretty exhilarating. He knew doing a trap song with Offset meant cranking things up a level. This has to be the first trap song where the rapper brags to their mom that all their meals are culinary. All his brags are adorable. Offset! Woo! This is synchronized swimming. Someone bring out the body bag. Offset and Rich are more in sync than my iPhone and iTunes account. I wish this was a Migos song featuring Brian; Takeoff would’ve gone full rocketship. Off killed, though. He deserves acknowledgment from Obama for working Fonzworth Bentley’s name into his flow. Good song. Bad hook.
6. “Glow Like Dat”
Hmm. This is interesting. It sounds like a sunflower playing the guitar underneath a pale moonlight. Melodic Brian is back with the vibes. “Glow Like Dat” does what “Introvert” failed to do. His pop songs are kid bops, no pun. The soundtrack to another teen movie. I can envision young ladies loving this record with the windows down. I wouldn’t mind a cheesy teenage movie staring Rich Brian directed by Kevin Abstract. The keys are filling me with the love of a thousand grandparents. Good song. Probably the best-constructed song of the album thus far. Gives a perfect sound to his personality and style.
Hahaha. This beat is a hot potato. The snare is hotter than a bowl of chili peppers dipped in hot sauce. Why isn’t Rick Ross on this!? T.I. should be on here talking about the trap being back jumping. How did such a trap banger not enter Gucci’s inbox? Brian sounds good, but he’s not doing this beat justice! Wait! He’s finally off the launching pad and soaring. Right after bragging about wearing perfume the whole energy amplifies. Ric Flair would howl a WOO to the moon if he heard this beat. Not bad, Brian.
The strangest beat on the album so far. Unconventional. The loop is so strange. It sounds like trying to moonwalk forward, or tap dancing with your fingers, or ordering pancakes at Waffle House. It sounds wrong, the kind of strange that you spend your entire life trying to avoid. Singing Brian doesn’t sound terrible. There’s a little bounce. But this one is shaping up to be a hard pass. The first certain skip. What the hell is that sound? My skin is crawling far away from this song. Did he say he worked with Pharrell on his first session? That’s a stunt.
9. “See Me”
Lush. I like it. It feels like I’m riding on the back of a motorcycle in the year 3500. I remember this was released as a single. It reminds me of Baka Not Nice’s flow on the first verse, but the singing and production really tie this one together as a good package of pop. He has a knack for building songs, fleshing out ideas. Another RapCaviar banger. Any song that could be big on the playlist but might not make it to radio is officially deemed RapCaviar banger. This is my current favorite.
I wonder who Rich Brian considers an enemy? Again, a real lush buildup. I’m not feeling this one. He’s trying far too hard. His attempts at making trap in his image haven’t sounded generic until now. Hm. This sounds familiar. Sample? Maybe… Production is giving me strong déjà vu. He’s been on a nice anti-drug kick. Just dismissed molly. Skipping this one. Brian, my friend, I’m not believing you ever feel in the position that a case could be caught. I’m just not.
I pray this isn’t a song about what I think this song is about. Don’t be cliché. Wait. Storytelling. This is interesting. Very hyphy. Wait! This is hard. What bartender is selling this child liquor? Jesus, I’m getting old. Dang. The hook is horrendous. And it’s a story about a girl. But I like this change of pace. Very saucy. Nice swing. Nice bang. The storytelling of him having sex is… jarring. I don’t know why rappers believe we care about their nightcaps. Brian is rapping about losing his virginity while “Bump & Grind” plays. Dang. You ever wonder what music the next generation will have sex to? Daniel Caesar? PND? IceJJFish? What just happened? Wait for the plot twist…
12. “Little Prince” ft. NIKI
Hahaha. Man. The kids are going to love this album. More Jolly Rancher pop. The production sounds how Adventure Time looks―bright, the kind of color kids are drawn to. Is this meant to be the crossover radio record? Maybe. NIKI has a nice voice. Sounds like marshmallows and chocolate syrup have replaced her human vocal chords. “Little Prince” is pretty boring, but also cute in a nauseating way. But I’m old. What causes my stomach to turn is the music that will make someone’s day. Not mad at it. Won’t play it again, but not mad. [Editor’s Note: Yoh is 26. He is not old.]
Rich Brian loves to talk about women and sex, but that’s a pretty common trope with rappers. The beat is rather alien. Martian synths. The drums could’ve been a bit more ambitious. Hahaha, oh god. The Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson line almost made me give up on this entire review. I’m glad every song is short. This has been amusing, to say the least.
14. “Arizona” ft. AUGUST 08
A guest singer. I’m getting a very uplifting vibe from the chords and this vocalist. Not bad, AUGUST. I hear the soulfulness. I’m not in love so far, but I’m feeling the warmth. Nice Jodeci line. He’s killing this verse. I like this verse a lot. Step Brothers reference. A couple of these bars are really hitting. A nice SZA nod. After Brian, I’m liking “Arizona” so much more. Holy shit what just happened. A scream. A beat switch. Fast flow. Very synthy. He’s going OFF. He’s going to run out of breath. Getting heavy Tyler vibes. I wouldn’t mind if Tyler gave beats to Brian. They would be an ill combination. Man. I was just getting into the first half before this sudden shift. It was well done. Nice, nice. Two voices. Talking about the series finale of The Office. Wait. HAHAHA. He just lied about the ending of The Office. This kid is sick and twisted hahaha.
Rich Brian’s Amen is an amusing debut. The project sounds like a teenager in the age of social media. He keeps things short; no song ever feels as if it’s trying your patience or testing your attention span.
Amen is a reminder that hip-hop is the world’s biggest genre, filled with trap aesthetics and present-day lyricism. Brian borrows the sounds made famous by the Metro Boomins and the Migos and adds his touch, tastefully illustrating the life he knows over mostly aggressive, thunderous backdrops. When he leans harder into the synthy Skittles pop, he still retains a certain naturalness. Despite having such a heavy voice, the lighter music is a great contrast to his trap-influenced music.
Unapologetically, Brian makes kids bops―the kind of music crafted for a younger demographic. Not a necessarily a flaw, he’s a kid himself. Somewhere a Disney executive is depressed for not discovering the kid five years ago. With that said, the immaturity of his music is made up by a powerful voice, and he has an excellent texture for hip-hop and a knack for crafting saccharine production. He knows what works, sticking to familiar formulas without crossing into blatant copying.
Amen isn’t without its shortcomings—there are cringe-worthy lyrics and uninspired hooks—but these issues can be ironed out with growth and further development. Rich Brian is making music that’s capable of fitting in with the present. He is on the pulse, able to fit into playlists filled with trap rap and melodic pop. With some work, he can become the kind of artist that doesn’t just fit in but is able to stand out.
By Yoh, aka Rich Yoh, aka @Yoh31