Bonnaroo Artist Focus: Rich Brian

With Bonnaroo tickets on sale and the Manchester festival’s June 7-10 dates around the corner, it might be a little daunting trying to decide which of the 100+ artists will give you the most bang for your buck. In this column, we’ll focus on a different artist every week to give you a sense of who they are and who will be worth checking out once summer rolls around.

Brian Imanuel’s rapid rise to hip-hop fame stands testament to the power of the internet to propel young musical artists out of obscurity and into the mainstream. In 2016, the then 16-year-old Indonesian rapper, making music under the controversial name Rich Chigga, released his breakout single, “Dat $tick,” to viral acclaim, racking up a whopping 80 million hits on the track’s tongue-in-cheek music video. He became more or less a musical meme, sporting a pink polo and a fanny-pack in his video while simultaneously laying down ruthless, violence-riddled lines like “pop shells for a living.” The disparity between his lyrical content and unassuming physical appearance gave the impression that Brian’s music would only stand as an ephemeral joke, with no more staying power than the short-lived careers of his Soundcloud-based trap contemporaries.

However, this year we witnessed a fundamental shift in Brian’s outlook as a musician, with an announcement on New Year’s Day that he would be changing his racially-insensitive name of Rich Chigga to Rich Brian, writing on an Instagram post “I was naïve and I made a mistake.” The single that dropped alongside the announcement, “See Me,” displayed a more introspective side of Brian as he distanced himself from his previous comedic background and seemed to express a desire to have his music taken seriously.

The recent release of Rich Brian’s first full-length album “Amen” further demonstrates the move toward sincere songwriting that “See Me” offered up. While the majority of instrumentals on the record clearly draw influence from the heavy-hitting trap beats that dominate the hip-hop airwaves today, tracks like “Cold” and “Introvert” make use of whimsical, watery synth atmospheres that create versatility through the album’s runtime. “Glow Like Dat” even gives us a glimpse into the more vulnerable side of Brian as he ponders a recent breakup, singing, “Don’t test me because my skin ain’t thick.”

While Rich Brian is still in the developmental stages of crafting his particular voice as a musician, his appearance at Bonnaroo will, if nothing else, offer up some infectious cloud-rap beats and catchy hooks, further ingraining the young Indonesian internet oddity’s place in the diverse festival atmosphere.

Watch Rich Brian’s music video for “Glow Like Dat” below.

Tickets and information can be found on the Bonnaroo website.

To contact Music Editor Hayden Goodridge, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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