Courtesy of 88Rising

August 16, 2019

TEST SPIN | Rich Brian — ‘The Sailor’

Print More

After Rich Brian’s incredibly lackluster debut album, I approached his newest project, The Sailor, with caution. It turned out to be okay. I didn’t expect it to catch hold of my interest, yet it managed to immerse me in its wake, the wind still in its sails. Accompanying trailers teased some of the addictive properties of the album to listeners pre-release, and the lyric videos that dropped along with each song are of great cinematic appeal. I also expected the new Rich Brian singing segments to be pretty subpar because of his experience in harder sounding styles of rap, yet a lot of these songs flow regardless. Beyond that, the production for all of the tracks is masterful, novel and creative.

Opening the tracklist with a bang, “The Sailor” is an explosive super-track full of abrasive bars that blow down each expectation in the beat. Three stages of eerie and dangerous instrumentals develop during his rapping. It was hosted in the “I JUST DESTROY ‘EM” promo that initially grabbed my attention for this album. With its own slick percussive addendum changing things up toward the close of its sunny epilogue, it’s a track that offers feelings of both alertness and reprieve in a well-crafted blast.

There’s an intensely rooted balance and grounding for melody and rapping switch-ups in “Rapapapa,” further showcasing Rich Brian’s newfound flare for polarizing song flips. This song is saturated with sexual allusions, as is much of the album, yet the countless flexes are practiced and precise in diction as well as delivery. Lacoste is pitted against Prada and his authority is established between bars. The chorus is good but grows exhausting when compared to the ecstatic bars of the verse. RZA’s collab and return is truly great. The veteran rapper’s powerful verse is Herculean and epic in its fabled, oracle-like praise of Brian’s own rise to success.

Ghostly, cohesive strings and keys draw together for “Yellow,” furthering The Sailor’s relentless and ambitious tones. Yet its pacing lends itself to a melancholic feel as well, giving it credence as a resilient tune. It shifts and evolves nevertheless, angered and growing in feeling as it reaches a heavenliness in the shouted rap chorus.

“Drive Safe” is a sweet track with woodwinds and bubbly melodies, where Rich Brian fondly wishes for his drinking partner and lover a safe drive home in a warm momentary farewell. The expectation of return, which while sung is yearning and cute, is also hopefully unnecessary in general as the dangers of drunk driving are immeasurable. Otherwise, its more intricate melodies, harmonizing and pacing make the track an incredible, uniquely energized experience. Any rap breaks are perfectly placed to pick the pace back up and vitalize an otherwise cozy song.

“Confetti” is a nefarious and smug lick with an intimidating production. It flaunts a vibe of pure bravado and energy. Rich Brian rhymes about crossfading with absinthe and weed and the spontaneous decisions that follow. It also explains the reasons for his growing ego: More money, sex and a now remarkable reputation following his internet-based come-up.

“Vacant” has female guest vocals that make the song an interesting battleground right off the bat, on an album otherwise devoid of their presence. Because his other’s headspace seems so distanced by prior emotional hurt and hang-ups, Rich Brian passionately struggles to hold onto a relationship that he feels completely unappreciated in, despite surrendering his atmosphere and world to her.

“No Worries” comes off as a different, classic-age pop song at first. It’s not easy to consume the odd singing portion of the track, yet it contains possibly my favorite rap verse in the entire album. After the cyclical beat’s fade into a more intense pacing, Rich Brian comes alive with a speedy, friction-felt verse that feels like it’s gliding on rails yet teeming with alacrity. The instrumental beat is truly amazing. However, the song may greatly lose replayability due to its lackluster first half.

“100 Degrees” is a major summertime banger. It plays host to a trickling, slippery sort of percussive beat with bright maritime vibes, though it may come off initially as corny beat since it made me expect some Chainsmokers-type garbage. Instead, I quickly adapted and got used to its unmistakably chill vibes as the song progresses. The carefree atmosphere it creates is supplemented by blissful and respectable bars that warrant an exuberant amount of positive energy altogether.

The starting and closing samples are entirely too alluring in “Slow Down Turbo,” along with its constantly variating sorts of pacing and changeups. It’s a bop when rolling and relaxed when it’s cooling itself down with its sample-heavy chorus. The intermittent Alaskan ice-cold verse ending in a speedily increasing rap burnout is unforgettable, and another coasting, smooth outro seals the sharp-toothed track before a soft, slick guitar riff closes it out.

“Curious” is packed with a handful of existential ponderings and reasons for Rich Brian’s established character and perspective, light Seven Seas guitars included. He is super honest and sometimes nerdy, but also emotional throughout his narratives. The climax of the song swoons with swinging, windy orchestral fills and reflections from the top whilst maintaining a rap focus rather than alternating to rosy melodies.

“Where Does The Time Go” is occasionally petty but lends itself to roasting two-faced love interests and fame-hungry lovers. As it progresses, it taunts those that don’t change. Yet it also shows the evolution of an inexperienced romantic to a cynical player and eventually dedicated and committed hopeful. This all comes with an ultra-tranquil beat of scratchy, soft acoustic guitar chords, along with a dreamy accompaniment from Joji. Although his presence seems to oversaturate many of 88rising’s releases and efforts, I still wish for more Joji here and his crispy baritone vocals are a welcome addition to any track.

Rich Brian may just become a young master of variety, switching moods and tones deftly in a way that would leave other singers and rappers floundering abruptly, as seen in “No Worries.” Brian’s voyage in The Sailor is full of characters, feelings and relationships that people may come to find as ardently expressed and less than difficult to relate to, and that might be one of his biggest strengths as a musical navigator. Past that, he has reiterated how hard he really can hit in the rap game, but also how he can deliver sweetness and euphoric vibes just as softly, if you’re on his good side.


Cory Koehler is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].