Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
When Brian Immanuel, formerly known as Rich Chigga (currently known as Rich Brian), dropped the music video for his breakout single “Dat $tick” in 2016, it was met with mixed reactions. The 17-year-old Indonesian rapper wearing a Reebok fanny pack and a pink Polo T-shirt was just absurd enough for most of the internet audience to dub him a “meme” rapper. Unlike other rappers that fall under that category, Immanuel was dead serious about what he was doing.
Subsequent releases on the up-and-coming label 88Rising showed that his first single was not a fluke, as Immanuel’s witty wordplay continued to be one of his strongest strengths as an artist. “I’d call the cops on myself if I can,” he bragged on the track “Who That Be.” What began to fascinate people about Immanuel was that, along with writing and performing each song, he was the one behind all the production, too. As his audience continued to grow, his reputation as a joke slowly began to fade away, and people began to see that there might be some lasting power to what Immanuel was setting in place at such a young age.
“Amen,” Immanuel’s first full-length album, kicks the door open completely. After refining his style and flow for nearly two years and releasing multiple singles, the Indonesian rapper was eager to drop more material for his fans than ever before.
What had made Immanuel’s music so addictive in the past was how short and easily digestible his songs were, so the question loomed as to whether the 16 tracks that span the album would wear the listener out after a while. Was he too young to make a complete album, or would it end up holding up just as strong as his singles had?
The opening track has the rapper showing off his rapid-fire flow over a spacious instrumental filled with bouncing 808 drums, as his dead-serious delivery set a different tone for the album from what most fans were probably expecting. “Cold” follows that up as a surprisingly emotionally charged song from Immanuel, who writes about issues in his own life like relationships and his isolation from other people. Tons of energy is loaded into “Occupied,” an absolute banger with bubbly bell synths chiming over a tightly produced trap beat. Immanuel’s tone of voice remains unchanged, but his hooks and relentless flow are more than enough to keep the songs interesting.
“Introvert (feat. Joji)” is easily the best song on the album, with a slick groove reminiscent of something the band Gorillaz would release. Joji’s vocals sound incredibly smooth over the beat, and the hook lodges itself into the listener’s head after only a few plays. “Attention (feat. Offset)” is a certified hit, playing out the same way as “Chaos,” one of the singles released leading up to the album. He continues to release music with driving beats and solid hooks like it is just part of some regular process, showing no cracks along the way.
Immanuel’s flow throughout “Amen” is charming at first, especially if the listener has been a fan of his music for a while. However, it does start to lose traction about halfway through the album. Songs like “Glow Like Dat” and “See Me” repeat themselves too much and do not have nearly as many change-ups as they could. Immanuel is versatile with his flow, but his serious tone of voice can feel like it is holding a song back sometimes.
Besides the few issues, though, “Amen” is incredible for a first project. It is easy to see Immanuel expanding much farther in the future.
Image from 88Rising via YouTube.com