The Sailor is Rich Brian’s second album, a project which he described in an interview with Complex as a very personal statement about his rocket-fuelled rise to the top, from being homeschooled as a kid in Jakarta to rocking “50 stages in all 50 states” in America.
Brian raps and sings on 12 tracks, reflecting on his current state as a musician and as a growing cultural icon for Asian kids and his home country, Indonesia. Unlike his previous album, Amen, which was almost entirely produced by Brian himself, The Sailor features an array of singers, musicians and beatmakers.
The artist Bēkon, also known as Danny Keyz, is heavily featured on the production being credited on every song: having recently worked on the award-winning album DAMN by Kendrick Lamar, you can clearly hear his sound and influence on the hooks and the bridges. Songs like The Sailor, Yellow and Slow Down Turbo are unmistakably his. Perhaps a little too similar.
Overall though the production is fresh and does not fail in entertaining the listener. It is a clear departure from most of Brian’s previous sounds: it’s an ambitious, personal album that’s trying to set the tone against the current “collection of singles” releases populating the Spotify charts these days.
His intentions were clear ever since the release of the first single off the album, Yellow, an act in three pieces in which Rich Brian rants about his struggles as a teenager dealing with fame, nicotine withdrawal symptoms and having to live up to his fans and his own expectations of greatness. It is not the only track of the album in which he experiments with singing, so much so that he had to reassure his fans on Twitter that it was indeed his voice throughout the song: it was so unexpected they couldn’t believe it. But they loved it.
“I used to be the kid, now the kids wanna be me” Brian then sings in Kids, a boom-bap anthem about making it to the top and being an inspiration for every immigrant following their dream, most specifically young people from Indonesia.
It’s a recurrent topic in the album which deserves praise and recognition considering Brian learned English by himself listening to rap music, watching videos on Youtube and making friends from America via Skype when he was just a “kid”.
On songs like Drive Safe and Vacant, you can hear the Drake influence, mostly lyrical, as Brian raps about his relationship with women.
There is also a high-profile collaboration with Wu-Tang’s very own RZA in the song Rapapapa, a braggadocios banger that ends with a thoughtful spoken word reflection by the man with the iron fists himself.
The Sailor is a good album that showcases Brian’s potential to become an even greater musician. While some topics could have been explored in more detail, the fact that he’s already out there repping a whole continent is something to cheer for. This an important stepping stone both for Rich Brian’s career and the future of the 88rising label.
This is absolutely worth your time.