Rich Brian sounds like he’s in good spirits, albeit a style raspy. He’s still got a bit of sleep left in his articulation.
“I’m sorry, I only woke up, ” he observes.
The rapper, whose real appoint is Brian Imanuel, speaks into the phone from his native Indonesia, a solid 11 -hour time difference between us.
The artist, who’s one of Asian-centric label 88 Rising’s biggest numbers, first amassed a following for his cool internet laughter and ridicule. Today, nonetheless, he seems introspective and earnest — idiosyncrasies that feel more congruous with his path in music.
While mainstream( whiter) audiences may not be familiar with his reputation, the rapper has been seen an sudden favorite among Asian listeners and beyond for years, representing a racial group in a category where they continue to struggle with legitimacy. Now at 20 years old, he’s weeks away from embarking on “The Sailor” North American tour, promoting his recent sophomore album of the same name. His new tracks evidence a most complicated, derived creator in comparison with the earlier slog that propelled him to his pre-eminent situate in the Asian hip-hop movement.
Rich Brian’s rise is, at its core, the history of an underdog. Yet together with the tale’s inspiring components exist a few cringe-worthy ones in the desegregate as well.
Since his start in the music manufacture, Rich Brian tells HuffPost that he’s knowledge significant epiphanies that have elicited a sort of rebranding. While the rapper rose through the viral shows, enticing massive fus in the Asian American community, as well as the greater hip hop universe, for his springs about brutality and money under the problematic moniker “Rich Chigga, ” he’s learned a thing or two on his melodic expedition.
“Now I’m a lot focused on myself and … the actual message and less focused on the flows and flexing, ” he tells me.
Just a few years ago, the rapper was a home-schooled teen and internet comedian of styles, who learned English through YouTube and retained a strong yearning to visit the U.S.
He’d get his shooting, too. In 2016, he released his own music video for song “Dat$ tick” under his former name, a synthesi of “Chinese” and the N-word. The video extended wildly viral, engendering hundreds of thousands of streams. Perhaps most remarkable to publics was that a kid donning a butt pack and pink polo was, in fact, the craftsman behind the ratatat flowing and articulation that levitates various octaves below where one would expect it to be.
The song skyrocketed his busines. He indicated to 88 Rising that very week, a move that would eventually bring him around the world, including to the State. He too received gestures of approval from the likes of Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, who later appeared on a remix of the song. Numerous followers in the Asian American followers performed the rapper’s virality as a ratify that more room had been impelled for the community in hip-hop. But under an already-problematic name, it difficult for listeners to ignore the fact that he bragged lyricals about a street life-style he did not lead and frequently utilized the N-word. Soon, he found himself challenging judgments of artistic allotment.
I used to think that, because I’m a rapper, that’s all I’m allowed to talk about. I’ve realized you can talk about anything. You can literally talk about anything. You can talk about your dog, you can talk about the skies . … As long as you word it in a way that’s interesting and listenable, you can make a song about anything and that’s what I been seeking to do with this album. Rich Brian on his alteration from his earliest work.
There was, of course, an internal computation and by New Year’s Day 2018, the rapper changed his name to its current iteration. As go has is going on, he says his understanding of the category has expanded. Rap, he now knows, isn’t confined to stereotypes of American urban life he’d dallied up in “Dat$ tick.” This time around, the craftsman leaned into his authenticity. The resulting recording is thick with his own floor, heavily extorting on his immigration to the U.S. and others who’ve dealt with the daunting following of the American Dream.
In a sense, expansion for Rich Brian has conveyed going back to what he thoroughly knows.
“I used to think that, because I’m a rapper,[ the stereotypes] all I’m allowed to talk about, ” he said of his earliest act. “I’ve realized you can talk about anything. You can literally talk about anything. You can talk about your dog, you can talk about the skies . … As long as you word it in a way that’s interesting and listenable, you can make a song about anything and that’s what I tried to do with this album.”
Rock fifty stages in all fifty positions, bitch. I did it all without no citizenship to show the whole world you just got to imagine. Rich Brian on the track “Yellow.”
The rapper, who moved to the U.S. in 2017, accentuates just how revolutionary the act of immigration is several times throughout our exchange. How crazy it is, he says in rumination, to uproot one’s entire life for a future with innumerable variables. The gravity of such an accomplishment remains misunderstood to most people who haven’t recently immigrated. But as wild as the transition was for him, he says that the internet allowed him to at least familiarize himself with a few cases pockets of American culture. Those who came decades before, nonetheless, didn’t have that comfort. He feels the recording is, in part, an attempt to humanize what has often been illustrated in medium through policies and numbers.
His single “Yellow, ” in particular, is knitted from the threads of his own immigrant arc. While the line starts with a touch of melancholia, reflecting his difficulties moving stateside, it progresses with magnificent orchestral swells, eventually ending in his personal triumph.
“Rock fifty places in all fifty regimes, bitch, ” he spews. “I did it all without no citizenship to show the whole world you just got to imagine.”
The song’s name is also figurative of a victory. The rapper told HuffPost that, while the word yellow has have traditionally weaponized against the Asian society, his song is a hopeful reclamation of the call.
Ever since I impelled that song, It’s cool to feel like’ yeah, I’m yellow. It’s tight.’ Rich Brian
“I was so inspired to write about how I felt in the moment and be as honest and vulnerable as I can, ” he said. “This is something that I’ve never genuinely talked about before. This could be a really big thing because I have such a big platform and a lot of[ fans] from Asia or just like Asian American kids. This is the perfect platform and perfect time to do this.”
“Ever since I built that song, It’s cool to feel like’ yeah, I’m yellow. It’s tight, ’” he says.
Nowadays, the rapper seems adamant about prolonging his own, uncorrupted narration and reputation his devotees. And that is, conceivably, why he isn’t particularly concerned with earning the seal of approval of mainstream gatekeepers of the music manufacture — places where Asian hip-hop creators have traditionally felt absent.
When it comes to Asian rappers, few have reached the annals of trendy hop-skip autobiography or even merely payed the validation from major label execs. MC Jin, who famously became the first Asian American solo artist to sign to a major description, achieved the achievement decades ago. Such few solo accomplishments have followed since that Jay Park’s ratifying with Roc Nation in 2017 was presaged as an inconceivable, awe-inspiring move. When it comes to the large-hearted accolades depicts like the Grammys or the Billboard Music Awards, Asian faces are almost imperceptible in very best song or artist categories.
In Rich Brian’s example, countless were baffled by the rapper’s absence from XXL Magazine’s Freshman Class, an annual roll of rookie hip-hop masters on their come up who’ve engendered significant hum.
He’s not ignorant to the ethnic disparities in the industry, either, though. However, he’s optimistic and feels that by making music and refusing to shy away from his identity, sentiment could change.
“It’s surely a fact that there are people who haven’t admitted us for certain. It might just be something that takes time, something that I’m perpetually directing really hard to try to change. This is why I do what I do, ” he said. “Our goal is just to come out in a really powerful way to the point where people can’t ignore it. At the end of the working day, if the artistry that you’re obliging is good, people have no choice but to pay attention.”