Young and Powerful: Rich Brian - Bitch, Hello!

Jakarta-born rapper, Rich Brian, formally known as Brian Imanuel, first charmed the internet with his viral music video for 2015 single ‘Dat $tick’. His label, 88rising, produced a YouTube video where he first gets multiple stamps of approval from numerous rappers; ranging from Flatbush zombies to Tory Lanez. In the last four years, Rich Brian has rapidly been on the rise to relevancy.

 

After moving to Los Angeles as a teenager, Brian soon shed his original stage name “Rich Chigga.” Imanuel often talks about how he learned the majority of his English through the internet, most specifically social media. By rebranding himself to Rich Brian, Imanuel refuses to adhere to slurs meant to divide others and is stepping towards future recognition as an ambitious, self-starter in the rap game. His debut album, Amen, was dropped under the current stage name Rich Brian and was a high energy album regarding his assimilation to American culture. Amen features singles such as “Gospel” andGlow Like Dat.” Besides his tremendous talent as a rapper, Rich Brian attracts fans with his genuinely funny personality and relatability due to his openness on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

 

As of the summer of 2019, Rich Brian is back on his grind with his succeeding album, The Sailor. Officially dropped on July 26, Rich Brian has wasted no time making the lyrical desires in a tangible reality. The rapper spent much of his time back in Jakarta, Indonesia, partially to create visuals used in The Sailor’s music and lyric videos. This album truly exemplifies Brian’s pride in not only being  Indonesian, but of being Asian in America as an immigrant at such a young age. A lot of what he talks about is him not being able to see his parents and really how crazy it is to think about all that is going on around him.

 

Identically named single,The Sailor’s” initial beat reminds me of Tyler, The Creator’s “Yonkers;” an abrupt, yet successful transition with LSD-laced angels singing (kind of likeLucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”) It’s a beautiful contrast between daydreaming and reality, with questions from a “small girl” he encounters, who asks him some of life’s deepest questions regarding Brian’s unique and isolating journey, navigating through adolescence, the hip-hop industry, and living as a freshly relocated immigrant.

 

RZA from Wu-Tang Clan has his own star feature on “Rapapapa,” in which he delivers an uplifting sermon on Rich Brian’s influence of the current generation. Regarding to Brian’s work as “the new Kung-Fu,” RZA’s speech brings together “old head” rap with a modern contender. This completes a full circle from Wu-Tang’s East Asian influence, reincarnated in an East Asian rapper.

Yellow directly features co-producer Bēkon, who similarly co-produced on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Nominated DAMN. Yellow’s music video holds up to such a prestigious name – show Brian breaking out of his plastic made cocoon, announced his presence when proclaiming “Bitch, Hello! Don’t fight the feelin’ ‘cause I’m yellow!” (a common slur for those of Asian descent.) Brian plays along with the album's recurring theme of Asian men being rejected in Western culture. Though he has definitely found his confidence in his lyrical growth within his musical evolution, despite not fitting in the mold of a “typical” rapper, or “typical” American. 

Kids is one of the songs which includes a music video with footage from Indonesia. Rich Brian filmed the Kids music video in Jakarta to embody his Indonesian pride This video definitely left me with nostalgia for some of Mac Miller’s older music videos, where the majority of the video is spent personifying humble, every-day, local faces. Rich Brian makes occasional appearances throughout, wearing a really awesome jumpsuit - so whoever styled him for this video, please reach out to me. Yellow has references to multiple famed late rappers in this song, such as a Nipsey Hussle and Tupac. Both rappers are known for their great abilities expressively, and poetically. Brian regards himself as one of Tupac’s “Roses Grown From Concrete.

Rich Brian collaborates with Joji, a label mate from 88rising, on Where Does The Time Go. 88 rising is known for representing terminally Asian talent such as Rich Brian and Joji. This label doesn’t only highlight the pair musically. The two have definitely established a great friendship, including their cooking-related weekly shows, called Feast Mansion. The duo seems to bring out the best in each other, comedically, musically, and gastronomically.

Confetti” is my personal favorite hype song. You know when you’re at a pregame, and the same song comes up a couple of times and you just don’t care because it gets you so hyped? This is that song. If you’re in the mood to get a little too emotional, “Drive Safe” is for you. Rapping about a tender moment between a couple who just got in a fight, Drive Safe can apply to many different situations in which we worry for those who may not be the best for us.

Within the last five years, Brian has had quite the come up. With all of that talent and drive to back him up, it is hard to imagine we’re gonna get anything but exceptional music from him. For now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see what is going to happen next. After spending some time in Indonesia to work, hang with his family, and run his Jakarta based Spotify pop up, Rich Brian has rounded up a tour in Oceania, which will conclude a few weeks before beginning the North American leg in October. I don’t believe this is the last we will hear from Rich Brian and I’m goddamn happy about it -  and you should be too!



Written by Julie Eckstein (@julieeck)


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