Now I am a huuuge fan of Rich Brian. I discovered his music when he dropped his first album, “Amen,” in 2018 and when he changed his stage from Rich Chigga to Rich Brian. His first album was an absolute banger. Every song is fun and danceable and is quite entertaining. You can tell that Rich Brian had a lot of fun creating each song and his talent is undeniable.
When Rich Brian dropped his second album, “The Sailor,” in the summer of 2019, I was a little disappointed. The music was not as upbeat as his first album but instead more somber. It did not take me long to understand this album was much more emotionally raw. Each song has a strong feeling that Rich Brian wants to explore and ultimately express within himself. The title of the album and the first song “The Sailor” is the classic expression of a wandering soul. The tail end of the song expresses questions that are hard to answer such as “Where do we go when we die? / What is the color of blue if there isn't a sky? / What is the meaning of life? / What is a life if a moment can end in the blink of an eye?"
While Rich Brian does not answer these questions in a satisfactory way, these questions help lead to self-reflection and greater self-understanding. These questions are quite relatable since I have asked these questions myself. The lack of answers infuriates me but the quest for finding these answers, even if they are technically impossible, would lead to a better understanding of self and others. This style of exploration of self is on-brand for Rich Brian since he hails from Indonesia where there is more Buddhist influence. In an oversimplified sense, Buddhism's answer to the meaning of life is to reach enlightenment, commonly known as Nirvana. The path to enlightenment is long and arduous but ultimately rewarding. Rich Brian leaning into these cultural and spiritual aspects of himself helps the listener understand the rest of the album with what he is trying to accomplish.
That being said, Rich Brian is still a young man and has undoubtedly changed when he gained all of his fame. Rich Brian became a viral phenomenon when he was making hits and that he perfected those hits when he debuted “Amen.” But after Rich Brian got used to fame, there was something lacking that many famous artists experience. There is a hole in one’s heart when you simply chase the high of fame and success at the expense of showing off his vulnerabilities and feelings.
Rich Brian acknowledges he does not see a lot of famous people that look like him. You can count on your fingers how many famous people are from Indonesia. But Rich Brian recognizes that he must blaze the path alone in order to see more of his people on the stage. He is such a large phenomenon that he showed his song, “Kids,” to the Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
What made Rich Brian the success he is now is that he spits straight facts on what it is like being a young immigrant in the U.S. He does not mince words about his exploits with women and it does get boring after awhile. But in “The Sailor,” there is more experimentation of his sound. Many of his songs lack his unique instrumentation for a more soft sound that really makes the listener pay closer attention to his lyrics. My favorite song of the album, “Drive Safe,” is one of those softer tracks as it is his experience with a long-term relationship and his subsequent break-up. Not gonna lie, I tear up every time I hear the chorus, especially when Rich Brian sings “All these thoughts I have in my head / Got me blinded from the sunset / I’m tryin’ hard to stop the rain / ‘Cause smilin’ doesn’t feel the same …”
I see Rich Brian wanting to show off his vulnerabilities and make you feel in your heart with this album and it would be a crime to at least listen to a few tracks. If you want more of a feel-good banger then “Rapapapa (feat. RZA)” and “Kids,” would be your go-to from this album. A more soft sound would be “Drive Safe,” “The Sailor,” and “Yellow (feat. Bekon).” A more experimental sound would be “No Worries,” and “100 Degrees,” and “Slow Down Turbo.” Each of these tracks are highly recommended.
I honestly see a lot of myself in Rich Brian. He likes to have fun with his various antics across LA but he still ultimately is still learning how to feel himself. We think we know what we want until we find out it is not. It is my understanding that Rich Brian thought immigrating to the U.S. would be great not just for himself but for his family and his nation. The pressures to excel in a world that tells you that you do not belong is immense. I cannot imagine what it is like to be in the music game but I know as a second-generation immigrant that I can imagine how hard it is to stand out. How the world privileges only one certain perspective and nothing else. If you want people to hear your story, you gotta be amazing at telling it. I am confident that this is what compelled Rich Brian to create a more vulnerable album versus an album that would chart the Billboards. For what is the point, if people are not listening to the story you are trying to tell.