Hip Hop and humor haven’t always gotten along. But then again, neither did fanny packs and trap beats. Both these things changed with the emergence of Brian Imanuel, an Indonesian rap newcomer who goes by the alias Rich Chigga. A demonic-voiced, cognac-pouring caricature of the standardized American rapper, Chigga has made the leap from an awkwardly hilarious Youtube-personality to an emcee oozing with a charisma that is equal parts goofy and unapologetic. And he has done it the only way he knows how, by making fun of it all.
The all-too-catchy single “Dat $tick” launched his unexpected career in the States, and with it, questions of skepticism by hip hop heads and laymen alike. Is he just a professional of parody, bathing in his 15 minutes of internet stardom? Or is he a budding artist with enough substance to actually be taken seriously? With the August release of the single “Glow Like Dat,” Chigga gives us an answer: he’s both.
I done seen you glow like that,I must say that I’m proud
Thinkin’ ’bout the times when you would go into my house (ayy)
Had to let you go like that, I’d say it fucked me up (ayy)
You live in my head without a doubt (ayy)
Always anxious, got your picture on my necklace (yuh)
Say I’m smart but never seen a day of campus (skrrr, skrrr)
Gave me ‘nani, don’t be sorry, we’re just reckless (skrrr, skrrr)
Think about you every time I see your drawers (yuh)
Listen: “Glow Like Dat” – Rich Chigga
“Glow Like Dat” finds Chigga trudging through new terrain on all musical fronts. For starters, the song is a love ballad. Inspired by a short-lived, online relationship with a girl from Maryland, his sarcastic gangster-gimmick one-liners are swapped out for heartfelt poetics. It’s a new side to Chigga that has yet to be seen, one that’s as vulnerable as it is brave. With lines like, “You live in my head without a doubt” and, “You go through my mind all day, all night, it feels like immigration” it’s as if his coping mechanism for the breakup is the song itself. Who would have thought such deepness could be derived from the dead-panned Youtuber who taught millions how to microwave bread?
I be on my Mac Demarco shit
Break my heart then smoke a cig
Even put some cloves in it (cloves)
Don’t test me because my skin ain’t thick
Hit your walls, I need my fix
Pull up on you, I need…
Way more with you
Had too much of these hoes
Never told you ’bout the summer that I spent with my bros
Doin’ things like your legs
Just gon’ stay open now they closed
Thought I’d fix the road
But now you out here flyin’ on your own
The instrumentation of the single is just as much of an artistic growth spurt. With his slurred, droning verses meshing with the lacy guitar chord progression, Chigga paints a soundscape with emotional brushstrokes, all the while gulping down nicotine like Mac DeMarco (“I be on my Mac Demarco shit, break my heart then smoke a cig”). Admittedly, some of the lyrics come off with a tint of cheesiness, but Chigga strains with a sincerity that can’t help but be respected, if not painfully relatable. And besides, cheesiness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, silliness and Rich Chigga are practically synonymous at this point.
And that really is Chigga’s trademark move. Or at least, it’s becoming such. What fans and haters alike are witnessing is an artist successfully troll the genre-labels and cookie-cutter-styles of modern hip hop. He doesn’t stray from the dry humor and satirical overtones that throttled him to fame, he relishes in them. Because of this, Chigga can still throw subtle jabs at the overused tropes of hip hop. He can peacock around music videos with the aura of a humanized meme. And he can even write a love song. It’s not that he doesn’t take his rap career seriously, it’s that he never takes himself too seriously. It’s a balance very few ever master.
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photo © Rich Chigga