Most people discovered Rich Brian through his viral “Dat Stick” video. He came into the music world with a fanny pack around his waist and a controversial name. Since then he has dropped his original name and continued his antics, simultaneously maturing and remaining youthful. This debut project, Amen, reflects that, as it features both the strength and weaknesses of Rich Brian’s youthful lyricism, elevated production, and style.
The first half of the album showcases more of the strengths. “Cold,” “Trespass,” and “Glow Like Dat” are all prominent examples of Brian manipulating his deep voice as well as his ear for solid, fitting instrumentals. His flows, particularly on “Amen,” “Cold,” and “Attention,” show a versatility that his singles seemed to downplay. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to hear him play around with melody. As for the features on this half, they’re somewhat lackluster. Despite my adoration of Joji, his presence on “Introvert” seems more awkward and unnecessary than anything else. The spacey instrumental doesn’t seem to work in his favor. (This a sentence I never thought would be true about Joji.) Offset comes through with a decent verse, but it’s still rather forgettable. Brian actually carries most of the record himself, which is interesting for a new artist’s first project.
Entering the second half, the record seems to invert itself. The features are much better, as NIKI and AUGUST 08 provide catchy hooks to some of Rich Brian’s more underwhelming performances. “Kitty” is interesting as an example of this weakness, as it’s humor seems to be undercut by a few cringe-bars (“Talkin’ to the bartender, sorry, sir, I’m just a teen”). “Chaos” and “Enemies” are unlikely highlights on this half. Brian’s aggression on the former track compliments an off-kilter instrumental while the latter exercises a catchy flow and some of Brian’s darker lyricism. Those two aside, the second half felt more like something the listener wants to get through just to finish the record. The first half is what we go back to.
All of this adds up to a decent first album with room for improvement. While “Cold” is a personal favorite, the second half also serves as a reminder of the way Brian’s lyrics resemble high school locker room battles (the flow switch is impressive regardless.) Fans of the rapper will surely be impressed by Amen, but the layman shouldn’t write Rich Brian off. He may seem immature at various points, but this record shows Brian’s potential to come through with more solid, cohesive projects in the future. I, for one, can’t wait to hear what he has in the future. Amen to that.