From a Meme to “Amen”: A Review of Rich Brian’s Impressive Debut Album

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From a Meme to “Amen”: A Review of Rich Brian’s Impressive Debut Album

Alexis Han, Staff Reporter

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The following review discusses and contains links to music and music videos with explicit content.

Rich Brian, an internet personality turned rapper, released his first full EP, Amen, this February. Though most may know Rich Brian as a comedian, his debut album is a true testament to his skills as a talented musician. Back in 2015, Rich Brian was widely known on the internet for his humorous YouTube videos (e.g., “how to microwave #bread”). However, the release of his first single’s music video in 2016, “Dat $tick,” was what catapulted his successful career as a rapper.

The “Dat $tick” music video is a parody of usual tropes that you would see in rap videos such as rapping next to cars and wasting alcohol. Wearing a pink polo and a fanny pack, Rich Brian provides an unexpected surprise because his rap skills contradict what one might assume from his funny appearance. The music video further exploded in popularity when famous rappers like Ghostface Killah and 21 Savage reacted in positive surprise to Brian’s skills. Since then, the 18 year old Indonesian-Chinese rapper has signed with 88Rising Entertainment and performed around the world as a full-blown musician.

But before all of this, most would be surprised to know that Rich Brian—whose real name is Brian Imanuel—was just a kid being homeschooled in Jakarta, Indonesia. Through the internet, Brian learned both the English language and the American sense of humor, gaining him lots of internet fans, way before the start of his music career. In the album’s opening song, “Amen,” he even says, “I don’t need no education, Internet’s my favorite teacher.”

Formerly known as “Rich Chigga,” Brian changed his stage name, citing his mistake for taking the controversial name in the first place. His name change, along with the release of his first album, has signaled his maturing as both an artist and a person. The album has Brian’s usual funny lyrics and playful nature (e.g., “Chaos”) but these aspects are balanced out by a more serious depiction of more mature themes: heartbreak and being alone.

“Glow Like Dat”, the first promotional single of the album, was inspired by one of Rich Brian’s first breakups and the growth that eventually came with it. He raps, “I done seen you glow like that, I must say that I’m proud/ Thinkin’ ’bout the times when you would go into my house.” Personally, this is one of my favorite songs on the album because the lyrics are poetic and truly convey Brian’s emotions. The song is the perfect precursor to other songs on the album, “Kitty” and “Arizona,” which explore different aspects of romance and heartbreak.

Although most may know Brian as a jokester, “Introvert (ft. Joji)” reveals a deeper aspect of Brian that people may not at first suspect. He raps, “Yeah, hole in my soul, don’t know how to fill it up/Cannot let nobody in, hopin’ that they understand.” Along with Joji’s vocals, the song has a melancholy feel that examines the inner emptiness that Brian feels, even if he may be successful now. Similarly, “Cold” is also about the Brian’s inner conflict of pushing away other people but then not wanting to be alone.

Overall, this album really shows that Rich Brian’s music has broken both personal and industry barriers, and the songs on this album are a depiction of Rich Brian’s maturing as a person and a newly successful artist. The success of Amen even made Rich Brian the first ever Asian artist to be #1 on the iTunes Hip Hop charts. Although Brian may have initially achieved fame unconventionally, he has proven that he still has what it takes to make it as a rapper. While Rich Brian may not be a mainstream artist yet, I have a feeling we will see more of his accomplishments in the future. Amen is a worthy listen because it perfectly bridges Rich Brian’s comedic past with his poetic and emotional music.

Overall Rating: 8/10