Review Summary: Look who’s laughing now.
The first time Rich Chigga was presented to me I had my reservations. I was in a car with my good friend Greyson, he was so excited to show me, but I was so skeptical, and so not in the mood for something called “Rich Chigga,” and my lack of curiosity was made worse because Greyson was billowing vape clouds into my face and I just desperately wanted to get out the situation. “Dude it’s like funny, but it’s also like, good.” I was not receptive to Greyson’s plea for an open mind and open ears, but something interesting happened, through the vape smoke, I saw that fanny pack and I heard that beat, and that deep voice, and I was hooked. This wasn’t just another joke/rap kinda thing, this wasn’t IceJJFish or some Lil B clone, this was catchy, it was funny, but most importantly it was a legit hip-hop track. Chigga’s staccato hook was so infectious, and the way he walks in the video, his pink shirt, the way his fat friend awkwardly handles a gun, everything about the presentation sealed the deal for me. I remember thinking to myself “This is great, but this kid is going to have a steep fucking uphill climb if he ever wants to be taken seriously.” Cut to two years later and we’ve arrived at Amen,
Brian Immanuel’s attempt at being taken seriously.
"Dat Stick" was a sharp fucking double-edged sword. Brian was a teenage Vine comedian living in Jakarta, Indonesia at the time, and from what I understand, he made the song just for the hell of it. The song was a hit, currently sitting at 85 million views on Youtube, but it established Brian as a novelty act, and he’s tried very hard to distance himself from "Dat Stick," and the Rich Chigga moniker in general. A few months ago, Brian put out a single with 21 Savage, which was great but did not make the cut to Amen.
This is likely due to the fact that 21 refers to Brian as Rich Chigga in the song, a real no-no. "Crisis" and "Dat Stick" are both better than half the tracks on Amen,
but Brian is adamant about leaving the Chigga days behind him, as Brian has since moved to the United States, and abandoned his aspirations of being a comedian and a cinematographer to pursue music full time. He’s attempting to do what most novelty acts fail miserably at, he’s demanding to be taken seriously.He’s replaced the fanny pack and his friends with features from Offset, Joji, and surprisingly he lives up to the reputation of both. While listening to Brian’s debut album Amen
I keep coming back to Greyson’s declarative, but with a slight twist. “Dude it’s Rich Chigga and he has a serious album, but it’s like, good.” Brian did the near impossible and made the transition from punchline to passable.
The production on Amen
is a mixed bag. Largely self-produced, there are a fair share of bombastic bangers, the wonky synth in "Chaos" and the hazy organ of "Attention" come to mind, but it’s at its worst when it attempts to be chill or atmospheric - those “lo-fi hip-hop radio 24/7 Chill study beats” Youtube channels come to mind, but these tracks are few and far between and are more harmless than outright bad. Brian’s lyrics and flow are the main show here. For someone that reportedly learned how to rap from watching Youtube, Brian has a relatively masterful style. He mixes humor and confidence just well enough to get away with otherwise cheesy bars. “You can't get rid of me, I ain't goin' nowhere / And I'm always multiplyin' like I always fornicate / Cake, cake up on this belt, the day I landed in the States / Doin' one take all day and I'm just spittin' out the mace (mace) / She like sippin' out that mason jar / She a hippie, she gon' suck for some granola bars / Little freaky got me curious like I'm on Mars / Sayin', I forgot my roots, goddamn, you went too far.” Outside of amusing joke lines, there’s a central theme that plays it in all of his lyrics - transformation, and it’s fitting considering in addition to transforming his sound and image, he’s also just transitioned to adulthood, and as a new resident of the United States. There are still some minor identity issues present, like Brian grappling between bangers and chilled out tracks, braggadocio, and introspection, flexing and talking about bitches, but doing it in a semi-ironic way, desperately trying to have it both ways. “Throwback to the fake Rolex / Put it on and went into the club like ‘Where the hoes at?’ / Remember sittin' down on my computer bumpin' Kodak / Thinkin' that I should probably go delete all of my old tracks.” Brian jokes about deleting his old tracks, but the content of these tracks clearly bothers him. Dropping an N-Bomb in "Dat Stick" (which he’s since apologized for) remind the listener that he’s only 18 years old and still experiencing growing pains. But for someone who started off as a comedian, speaks English as a second language, and is barely a legal adult, Rich Brian has the rap game on lockdown.
Despite distancing himself from the Rich Chigga persona, it’s hard not to bring it up when discussing Rich Brian, or especially when recommending this album to people. Fellow Sputnikmusic.com staff writer Arcade recently shoutboxed me: “I can’t believe Chigga’s album is actually good,” and I prefaced playing this to my girlfriend with “Remember Dat Stick? This is him, but he’s different now, sort of.” Everything that made Brian an exciting artist in the first place is still present, his deep ass voice, his humor, and his light tone, it all just feels a little too conservative, and Brian seems to be afraid of his own potential. Rich Brian didn’t need to go so hard with the image change, but as far as debut albums go, Amen
is catchy, it’s not gimmicky, it’s not annoying, and there’s just enough Chigga still in there to keep things entertaining.