Before listening to his debut album Amen in February 2018, I have never heard of Rich Brian’s music. I heard the name before when he was going by Rich Chigga (changing the name after a while, regretting using that name in the first place), and he was getting some viral success from tracks like “Dat Stick.”
He is also signed to the “hybrid management, record label, video production and marketing company” 88Rising, where they have signed primarily Asian artists like Niki, Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, and of course the man formerly known as Filthy Frank, Joji.
Upon hearing the first single “Yellow” for his sophomore album The Sailor, it seemed like he was going for a different vibe with a lot more of him singing. Having heard Amen and thinking it was a decent album, along with that 88Rising Compilation Head in the Clouds (which I also thought was cool), I was curious to check this album out.
And what did I get out of this?
I can safely say that Brian did some self-exploration of himself coming up as a rapper but more outside of what he is formerly known for and maintaining his presence in the rap game. The title of the album is reference of him being someone in foreign lands like a sailor, with him being from West Jakarta, now living in L.A., and transitioning from a mostly memetic style of rap to being more ambitious and trying out some different aesthetics. There’s mainly a lot of him singing on the majority of these tracks. “Yellow” (featuring Bekon) highlights how in the current age, musicians and trendsetters are appreciated and respected more… after they die. Yeesh, that’s a bit dark, but he isn’t lying on that front.
Yeah, ayy, oh
Got a full clip, don’t even carry no guns (Gun)
Don’t need no ICE, feel like I’m 21 (21)
Breakfast and lunch, she gon’ swallow my sons (Sons)
Dinner, dessert, eat these rappers for fun (Fun)
Don’t give no fucks if you don’t fuck with my shit
Rock 50 stages in all 50 states, bitch
I did it all without no citizenship
To show the whole world you just got to imagine
Content-wise, he brings plenty of bars in regards to his past and present life, his thoughts and interpretations of the rap game, his relationships, and just getting into his emotional side. The next single “Kids” is a triumphant self-empowering anthem about his come-up in the rap game, and this is my favorite track of the album with the boom-bap production featuring some DJ scratches and horns. The vibe just gives you that inspirational pop in your mind that you can achieve your dreams and goals, citing late rappers Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller as inspirations to keep on rapping.
Can’t forget about the day that Sean called me
Talkin’ ’bout a vision called 88 that he’s dreamin’
Man, I love him like a brother, if we fall, we gon’ recover
Just a man with a vision who mastered in causin’ trouble (You can’t see)
Man, I can’t see the finish line
Fall back, fall back, I ain’t fuckin’ ’round this time (Anymore)
Did God know he created a legend in ’99? (Anymore)
Fuck pretendin’ on a track, man, I mean every single line
“Drive Safe” is where you notice that he’s trying some different directions, with the production only being guitar and strings, and he’s doing some singing again as this is a love song about a long distance relationship and rarely seeing them, maybe leading them to an eventual breakup.
“Rapapapa” is a low-key banger where Brian goes on about his sexual prowess and two-faced people whenever fame comes at you. Yeah, it sounds like a bit typical given the subject matter, and I admit I didn’t get into it at much at first, but it warmed up to me after a while. There’s also the outro where The RZA makes a sermon (or speech) of one’s important impact on their culture and gives some glow-up to Rich Brian as well.
The production is easily the best element of the album, having piano and strings throughout, notably in “No Worries.” The beat switch-up on that track and on”Slow Down Turbo” is quite superb. “100 Degrees” does have that ‘made for radio/song of the summer’ vibe, and while I’m meh on it, I get the reason for trying to go for a pop crossover. The other highlight of “Slow Down Turbo” is in the tempo of the song and Brian’s vocals intensity. Last but not least, we have “Where Does the Time Go,” teaming up with Joji as they go on about their significant others and not having enough time to spend with them.
All-in-all, The Sailor is an impressive sophomore effort from Rich Brian where everything about it just hits you in that sweet spot, from the content of the lyrics to the various production styles. It is a superb progression coming from his last record, and like the name of the label he’s on, he continue to rise into an artist that’ll be known for years to come.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy it. The Sailor has boarded and he’s not leaving any time soon.
The Sailor is released on 88Rising/12 Tone Music and is available on digital download and streaming services.