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Rich Brian: Indonesia meets America

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Whether it be Taylor Swift, or Death Grips, people have an affinity for a genre. Brian Imanuel, an 18-year old rapper from Jakarta, Indonesia; shows his American fans why genre has no boundaries. In 2016, Brian Imanuel began his artistic career through the creation of funny YouTube videos and Vines, but launched to viral internet fame with his rap video, “Dat $tick,” which was released under his stage name,  “Rich Chigga”. The music video featured a 16-year-old Brian Imanuel spitting bars and throwing down lyrics with his surprisingly deep voice; all while wearing a pink “dad” shirt and a fanny pack. The clip received millions of views, paving his road to an American legacy. In any case, the main factor that solidified Dat $tick’s  fame in 2016 was Imanuel’s ironic “dad style.” The fastened polo shirt, fanny pack, payload shorts and hard rap flows are what made him an internet sensation. Fans listening to mainstream rap two years ago could relate: Young Thug’s dress on the front of his 2016 mixtape Jeffery summed up rap’s free vibe that year. Being different across a sea of generic artists is what Imanuel did.

No meme is supposed to stick to one region. Anyone from anywhere can appreciate memes, regardless of where the joke came from. YouTube is progressive in its own form, eagerly overpowering any stereotype, regardless of race, gender or identity. “Dat $tick” voyaged so quickly by imagining this reality of how Asian hip-hop is progressing to a high level no one expected it to be. On the other side, some consider everything Imanuel does to be racist or a joke. Through the use of memes and the “appropriation of black culture” as seen by Pitchfork writer Jace Clayton, his use of these two factors are viewed as detrimental to Imanuel’s status as an artist. Although it seems Imanuel retained “meme” culture effortlessly, we as Americans fail to realize that this Indonesian rapper’s familiarity with American pop culture is hard-won. The interestingly American blend of “Americanizing” our memes and over-outfitted hostility towards foreigners who claim our style as theirs essentially doesn’t really vibe as “diplomatic.” As Pitchfork wrote Feb. 8 of this year, “Verisimilitude—not virtuosity—was the target. Copying is how we all learn. Copy enough and you end up creating. Participation matters, as does appreciation.”

Not only was Imanuel’s style controversial, but so was his original name: Rich Chigga. After much heated debate on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook regarding Imanuel’s stage name, he soon changed it to Rich Brian; he also apologized for his use of derogatory racial words in songs and in his original name. Imanuel released his first full length album, “Amen” (February 2), under the new name. Although Brian Imanuel attempts to copy as many American memes and flows as possible, that’s what makes his unoriginality ironically original. His mesh of styles from everywhere is what creates his persona, and gives him the stage name of Rich Brian. Like Imanuel says, “I never use triplet flows because I’m not a Migo.”

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