After his controversial path to hip hop relevance, Rich Brian had critics taking shots left and right. But his impressive debut project means that the 18 year old from Indonesia can brush off the hate and let the numbers do the talking from now on.
The dreadfully long wait for Rich Brian’s first full-length project came to an end as the rapper’s debut album Amen hit streaming services around the world on February 2nd. With such a limited discography, no one knew quite what to expect from Brian’s first real opportunity to fully flex his creative muscles in the studio. In today’s day and age, just about anyone can make a standalone viral hit online – but translating that one-off attention into album success, like Brian’s biggest musical influences have done, is a whole ‘nother story.
Rich Brian: Ignore Me at Your Own Risk
Now that the dust has settled, one thing is clear: Rich Brian is here to stay.
Guys. “Amen” just hit no. 1 on iTunes hip hop albums. Thank you so much. I’m gonna go for a run. pic.twitter.com/QKrySMwQ0a
— Rich Brian (@richbrian) February 2, 2018
Not only did Amen top the iTunes charts, but it also became the first album by an Asian artist to ever do so:
HISTORY. @richbrian is the first Asian artist in history, to ever reach #1 on the ITunes Hip Hop Chart.
People think, rarely wonder pic.twitter.com/SWLBaIyWK5
— 88rising (@88rising) February 3, 2018
Listen in to Amen below. Standout tracks include “Amen”, “Cold”, “Attention” (feat. Offset), along with its singles “Glow Like Dat” and “See Me”.
To promote his debut album, Rich Brian made an appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden within hours of its release. Alone on stage with just the lights and his mic, Rich Brian shows the independence, charisma, and talent that made him an overnight celebrity. Check out Brian’s performance of “Cold” and “Amen”, two of the albums standout tracks, live for the very first time:
Rich Chigga’s Rise to Stardom
Although he is ethnically Chinese, Brian Imanuel grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. He was homeschooled his entire life, leading him to lean heavily on the internet for a social window into the world. As he entered his teens, Brian began using YouTube videos to teach himself English and started to build an online following for his provocative brand of short-form satire on Twitter, Vine, and YouTube.
“[My comedy] is super satirical. Indonesian people don’t get satire, that’s the thing. There’s no thought in our humor. Every time I would post shit on Instagram… people are like, “Brian what are you doing? Are you gay?”
Shit like that.” – [Rich] Brian Imanuel
Then in 2016, Brian Imanuel dropped his viral single “Dat $tick” seemingly out of nowhere under the moniker Rich Chigga. The music video was hilarious – but the song was legitimately dope. “Dat Stick” featured high-fi production with heavy, blown out bass and a smooth flow that seemed absurd coming from a 17 year old who taught himself English. “Dat $tick” quickly blew up to the tune of 80 million views (and counting), and put Brian in the internet’s spotlight.
Months after “Dat $tick” blew up, Rich Chigga signed with 88Rising, an Asian-focused management group/label out of Brooklyn that also includes Korean rapper Keith Ape and Korean American rapper Dumbfoundead.
The Transformation to Rich Brian
Although it may seem as if everything was on the up-and-up, there was one big obstacle still standing in his way. Brian’s use of “Chigga” in his moniker, although clearly a result of his roots in satire, was alienating audiences that the rapper / producer desperately needed on his side if he wanted to make it in the rap game.
As an Indonesian with little to no prior understanding of racial dynamics in America, Brian Imanuel clearly underestimated the extent of the controversy that his chosen alias would provoke. After undergoing an extensive Twitter thrashing and being subjected to criticism across the media, Immanuel had a choice to make.
On January 1st, 2018, Brian made a decision that in hindsight, seems to have been the absolute right call. After taking to Twitter to announce his debut album, Amen, Brian also announced that he had decided 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.
After the breakout success Rich Brian is seeing as a result of Amen’s success, it’s hard to second guess Brian’s choice. At the moment, Rich Brian is soaring – and there doesn’t seem to be anything standing in his path to legitimate stardom. We’ll have to wait and see how hungry he stays and whether he can maintained the type of work ethic that’s required to reach that next level of consistency to rise to true hip hop stardom.