WITNESSING THE REBIRTH OF RICH BRIAN
Indonesia’s own 18-year-old, now bygone burlesque and renamed rapper, Rich Brian (previously known as Rich Chigga) has docked his ship in hip hop’s highbrow harbour. After making history as the first Asian artist in history, to ever reach #1 on the ITunes Hip Hop Chart, Brian embarked on his 28-date U.S Come To My Party Tour, before bringing himself and members of the eccentric 88Rising team to an anticipating European audience. With two sold-out shows at Islington’s o2 Academy in London, it was finally time to witness the reborn Brian.
Succeeding the viral breakout with the musically entrenched buffoonery that was 2016’s ‘Dat $tick’, it’s fair to say audiences were left perplexed by the then Rich Chigga. Two things were clear however; firstly, wearing a fanny-pack with a pink buttoned up polo, pouring liquor onto the street, was gangster as f*ck. Dreary are those who weren’t tickled by the, at the time, 16-year-old East Asian’s derisive content. Secondly, the production and lyrical delivery were flawless. It worked. The track, to date, has garnered an impressive 88 million views, charted on Billboard’s Bubbling Under HipHop/R&B Chart at No. 4, and drawn co-signs of hip hop icons including one Ghostface Killah, who jumped on a remix with Pouya. Not bad for a once timid, internet-addict, home-schooled rapper.
So when the newly anointed, Rich Brian first took to the stage to a jam-packed sold-out main room at the o2 Academy in London, the air of confidence and authority he carried was unexpected, yet far from surprising. Opening with his verse from the aggressive, bouncy, ‘Gospel’, a 2017 collaboration with XXXTentacion, and fellow 88Rising label-mate, Keith Ape, the reception was as equally energetic as his performance. Following the opener with another ‘pre-Brain baptized’ single, ‘Seventeen’, Brian earned huge exuberant applause from the already sweaty hoard of supporters, during his double-time inner-verse rapping.
The expeditious 2017 rise of 88Rising, bringing East music to West audiences, came off the heals of another viral smash, Keith Ape’s 2015, ‘It G Ma’. Since then, the label, headed by Brian’s manager and “father-figure” as he so put it, Sean Miyashiro, has taken huge leaps forward over the past year or so. Leaning on his expertise of creative strategy, Rich Brian has scaled up globally, and his growth is symbiotic with that of 88. His debut album, ‘Amen’, released in February of this year, showcased his growth, whilst the project exhibited his comedic whit to it’s fullest. It’s this potential for epic artistry that is yet to be entirely fulfilled, but you wouldn’t be able to tell when at a click of his fingers he drops the ‘Cold’ beat off the lead single from his album to a crowd listening intently to this forlorn, alluring track.
Performing a few more album cuts, Brian flaunted his melodic verses constructing the majority of what has been a strong first project. Before drawing his relatively short set to a close, Brian dropped his final cuts ‘Glow Like Dat’ and ‘Dat $tick’, the latter being run through twice of course. If ever in doubt, Rich Brain’s artistic existence should no longer be in question, but perhaps further examined. With his energy reciprocated to it’s highest potential, London is a wrap, and as he heads off to complete several more dates across Europe, it’s not unlikely that the man will be returning to tour bigger venues within the year.