Rich Brian showed us he was serious about the music by ditching his old name before his debut album. But if he wants to keep his momentum going, Rich Brian needs to avoid the same mistakes that Gucci made on his debut album back in 2006 .
Rich Brian’s rise has been like something out of a story book.
In early 2016, Rich Brian (and his previous alias Rich Chigga) did not exist. Instead, there was only Brian Imanuel: a 16 year old kid living with his parents in Jakarta, Indonesia who had a knack for satire. A product of homeschooling and child of the internet, Brian taught himself the English language by watching videos on YouTube. He used his blossoming grasp of the English language and his ample free time to make a name for himself as an online ‘comemedian’, specializing in clever, short-form satire on Vine, YouTube, and Twitter.
It was February 2016 when Brian Imanuel dropped his first ever single, “Dat $tick”, seemingly out of nowhere. His life would never be the same again.
The video for “Dat $tick” was hilarious – but the song was a legitimate banger. “Dat Stick” featured high-fi production with heavy, blown out bass and a smooth flow that fit so well it was hard to believe this kid hadn’t released any music before. “Dat $tick” quickly blew up to the tune of 80 million views (and counting), and took Brian international.
“I see the comedic side of what [Rich Brian’s] doing, but what he’s spittin was dope though. His flow is tough.” – Cam’ron
Back in 2016 Brian was going by his old alias, Rich Chigga. As buzz continued to build with each new single, it quickly became clear that Brian had a legitimate chance to make it as a musical artist. There was only one problem: no one could tell if this kid, or his music, was serious or not.
On January 1st, 2018, Brian decided to put the speculation to bed. He took to Twitter to announce his debut album, Amen, as well as his decision to change his name from Rich Chigga forever. He wanted to take this shit seriously and needed an alias that wouldn’t alienate half the industry before he even started. Thus, Rich Brian was born.
Rich Brian’s Debut Album, Amen
When Rich Brian dropped the first single for Amen on New Years Day, I was hyped. As someone who loved what Brian did on some of his earlier stuff, I couldn’t wait to hear what he could produce for a full-length project. Tracks like “Dat $tick”, “Glow Like Dat”, “Chaos”, “Crisis”, “Back At It”, and “Seventeen” were seriously dope and showcased Rich Brian’s potential as a rapper. He mixes up his flows but stays comprehensible in his delivery. He’s certainly no Weezy but his verses are decently clever for a self-taught speaker. He’s also got a great ear for a hook.
But where Rich Brian’s star power really shone through was in production. In fact, five of those six tracks were self-produced, with “Dat $tick” as the only exception.
Rich Brian’s talent as a producer is immediately clear on any one of these singles. Brian’s beats carry mindworm melodies, well-mixed percussion, and satisfyingly heavy bass lines. His wandering melodies and laidback style give each song enough substance to enjoy even without lyrics, while also being smooth enough to avoid distracting from the bars he puts on there. Although his sound is his own, you can still definitely hear the influence of his biggest musical inspirations (Childish Gambino, Young Thug, and Tyler, the Creator).
Rich Brian on “Chaos”:
“Make all my own shit, I get all the profits
If you’re acting lazy then do not expect your props bitch”
Why Amen May Leave Fans Disappointed
Rich Brian has talent. There’s no way around it. The guy has a real ear for production and a distinctive voice with range. Throughout Rich Brian’s early run of singles we’ve heard him try a lot of different things – and although the singles weren’t all instant classics, none of them were flat bad. Considering how green he still is as an artist, that shows a lot of promise.
That being said, a label-backed full-length project is a whole other beast. Particularly when it’s your debut project.
From beginning to end, the development of Amen will be closely monitored (and possibly controlled) by his new label 88Rising. We won’t know the full extent of the label’s influence on the production decisions until we hear it for ourselves on February 2nd. Judging by what’s been leaking out of the album’s development, label collaboration means working with more unfamiliar producers than Brian ever has before.
“Our creative process, especially with Rich, is that we all work together. He comes up with the song ideas, sonically what he’s looking for, and we get the right producers” – Sean Miyashiro, Founder of 88Rising
Rich Brian’s raw talents with production cannot be overstated. As a producer, his batting average is one of the best in all of hip hop right now. But despite his obvious talent, there has been no mention whatsoever of self-production for the forthcoming album from Brian or his label.
It’s a big gamble to have Rich Brian less involved in the production for Amen. On one hand, we could hear a renaissance in Rich Brian’s music through all the collaboration with new artists. On the other hand, it’s easy to take too much outside advice as a young up-and-comer on your first label-backed project and lose creative control of the whole process. Being pulled in different directions by a slew of unfamiliar collaborators and new producers can make it hard to retain your music’s identity.
Rich Brian on “See Me“:
“See me in my tour bus by myself
Call me selfish ’cause I got me and nobody else
Give myself an envelope just like it’s per diem (ayy)
Twenty mirrors in my crib, I’m hangin’ with my friends”
This wouldn’t be the first time an up-and-coming rapper allowed a label too much control over his first major album and suffered because of it. To see just how hard it is to say “no” to a label executive early in your career – and the dangers of not doing so – we can look to the God of Trap Music himself, Gucci Mane.
Back to the Trap House: A Lesson for Rich Brian
In Gucci Mane’s award-winning autobiography, the rapper shared what he learned from his first project under a major label.
It was 2006 and Gucci Mane was fresh off the tail of his most successful mixtape yet, Chicken Talk. Gucci was also riding the wave of his second album, Hard to Kill. Hard to Kill was doing incredibly well considering the fact that his small independent label’s CEO was in jail and Gucci himself had done absolutely zero promotion for the album. To sum it up, Gucci’s career was flying. This newfound success got him a deal with Asylum Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. It was his first ever deal with a major label.
With Gucci Mane signed on at Asylum, his major label debut was just over the horizon. Gucci’s Asylum-backed album Back to the Trap House would be his step from regional icon to household name on the national stage. Because of his eagerness for the project, Gucci let a few things slide to lock down the deal.
“Part of going through Jimmy to get the deal at Asylum was that I’d work with a group of producers whom Czar Entertainment set me up with for my major label debut… They weren’t my go-to producers. I wasn’t thrilled about the arrangement, but i viewed it as a necessary sacrifice to get the new deal done.” – Gucci Mane, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane
Previously in his career, Gucci had never allowed anyone so much influence over his music – with the obvious exception of his long-time producer and best friend Zaytoven. But Gucci went against his gut to get this deal done. He agreed to hand over a lot of the decision making for the development of Back to the Trap House to label executives. It turned out to be a massive mistake:
“Back to the Trap House debuted at number 57 on Billboard’s Top 200, selling fewer than thirty-two thousand copies in its first week. My major-label debut was a dud. I knew those beats were not suited to my style. I’d taken too much outside advice. I should have stood up for myself and put out the album I wanted.” – Gucci Mane, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane
Rich Brian would do well to learn from Gucci’s mistake. If he isn’t careful, Rich Brian’s Amen may very well be his Back to the Trap House.