Writer: Kyle Wheelock
Memes are a powerful thing in the 21st century. They’ve gone from funny tweets to a powerful marketing tool used by companies, including record labels. Amen is the debut studio album by Indonesian rapper and producer Rich Brian (FKA Rich Chigga). In 2016, Brian uploaded a music video for his song, “Dat $tick”, which immediately went viral (the video currently has 85 million views at the time of writing). The video blew up due to a mix of Brian’s cold, booming voice and contrasting visuals of him in a pink polo and a fanny pack. It became a meme, especially after several rappers reacted to it.
All that being said, when Brian continued to release more and more singles, it was unclear if he was really serious about rapping. Lo and behold, we now have debut album. And, I’m just gonna throw it out there, it’s pretty ok. Not an album of the year by any means, but it’s still good. Amen has 14 tracks and clocks in at just over 44 minutes with features from Offset and our boy Joji. All in all, the final product is a solid project that definitely has some replay value, despite a lack of variation.
I know that seems kind of contradictory, but it makes sense, I promise. For the entirety of this project, Brian alternates between kicking braggadocious bars like on, “Chaos,” and more introverted storytelling on songs like, “Glow Like Dat”. Outside of this, there isn’t too much more diversity between tracks, but what makes this ok is Brian’s personality. Compared to other contemporary rappers, Rich Brian has more charm and personality than anyone else, there isn’t anyone else like him and he doesn’t try to be anyone else. So while the album can get kind of same-y sonically, it’s ok because Brian is something different.
Earlier I mentioned, “Glow Like Dat,” being a slower, more narrative song, and in my opinion, these are the tracks where he shines the brightest. “Cold,” “Introvert,” and “Arizona 08,” all show Brian rapping with a purpose about one specific thing. Be it his thoughts and feelings, an ex girlfriend, or friendships, when Brian decides to really zero in one thing, he does his best work and personally. I’d like to see more tracks like those going forward. Another reason for this, besides Brian’s songwriting, is his production. Every track here is produced by Rich Brian, either wholly or partially, and I think that makes for a nice advantage. There’s a certain level of comfort that comes from tailoring your own sounds for yourself to rap over that you can’t find anywhere else, Earl Sweatshirt achieved the same feat on his last album in 2015. In a vacuum, Brian is a talented producer who has a knack for picking out the right sounds and placing them in just the right spots, and it makes for the perfect storm.
Of course, this isn’t to say the other songs here are bad, because they aren’t. The tracks where Rich Brian is kicking lines like, “Attention,” and “Chaos,” are demonstrations of what the 18 year old can do, as well as where he can go in the future, should he stick with his music career. Rich Brian on this project reminds me a lot of Jaden Smith on Syre, a young and aspiring rapper with a lot of potential and room to improve, but with a more distinct style in Brian’s case. Another advantage Brian has is his naturally deep, booming voice, which makes his bars sound so much colder when he breaks out his monotone delivery. Granted, I could see how the lack of emotion could rub people the wrong way, it’s admittedly not for everybody.
But for me, the emotionless delivery on these songs really set the tone for me, much in the way 21 Savage does. There isn’t too much else to say, but that’s really a result of the shallowness of this project. Maybe shallowness is the wrong word, but I don’t think predictability is it either. This project definitely has its highlights, and I’ve already gone back to it repeatedly and probably will continue to until it gets old for me. But, highlights or not, you can’t deny that this project only has a few dimensions to it that are easy to pick up on, with the biggest saving graces being Brian’s production and his personality. I’m not trying to trash this project, it doesn’t deserve that. However, it also doesn’t deserve a top 10 album of the year title or anything like that, this is a fun project that can get pretty repetitive, and that is about it.
TL;DR: It’s pretty good, not great
Highlights: “Glow Like Dat”, “Introvert”, “Attention”, and, “See Me”