No doubt, the Asian rap scene is booming. But few could have predicted the fast and unlikely rise of Brian Imanuel, better known as Rich Brian, in the music industry. Before the Indonesian rapper was tapped into 88Rising’s roster of Asian talents, he was already a product of internet culture, racking up viral videos on every trendy platform he got into. Fast forward to 2019, and it’s his music that takes precedence now. At just 20 years old, Rich Brian already has two studio albums to his name. He recently kicked off a solo tour to promote his latest album, The Sailor – an impressive follow-up to his debut album, Amen, which came out just last year.
In his sophomore release, the rapper displays a level of maturity well beyond his age, making it a point to shoulder the ambitions of young Asians and showing them a way to realize their dreams through his lyrics. When asked what he hopes to inspire in aspiring rappers, especially those in Southeast Asia, he said, “Whatever it is that you do, make sure to include a piece of your soul in it – a part of you that you might think is too weird and wouldn’t usually share with the people close to you. But that is what will set you apart.”
The album also displays Rich Brian’s growth in the search for a signature sound. How does he see his sound evolving in the future? “It’s hard to tell what specific sound I’m going to go towards but what I know is I feel freer now. If I want to sing I’ll sing, if I want to have fun I’ll have fun, if I want to really rap I’ll rap. But I will say that whatever it is I do, I’m aiming to be a lot more lyrical with it,” he said.
It’s clear that all the success hasn’t changed his personality one bit. Barring the throngs of fans that flock to his shows around the world and scream along to his songs, his youthful humor still persists. After all, that was the formula that shot him to fame with the viral music video and single Dat $tick in 2016. Despite his unlikely rise, the Indonesian rapper remains grounded and determined to continue growing as an artist.
With back-to-back studio albums in two years, it’s easy to assume that there’ll be another one set for next year. But Rich Brian was quick to play it down, “I don’t really like setting a schedule on things because you really never know when you’ll be inspired. It all comes and goes.”
While we wait for the next album to drop (hopefully next year), Rich Brian will continue living the dream with a solo tour for The Sailor in North America. But for all of his achievements at such a young age, there are some things he’s missing – particularly the local dishes back home in Indonesia. “There are way too many to name but as of right now, I will say I miss rendang,” he said.