By: Neil MacAlister
Amen by Rich Brian
When a dorky teenage YouTube comedian from Jakarta made a rap video with a few friends, a bottle of cognac, and a fanny pack not many expected him to rise above the level of brief viral fame — but “Dat $tick” turned out to be just the beginning. With his debut album, Amen, Rich Brian (formerly Rich Chigga) broke records as the first Asian solo artist to top iTunes’ hip-hop chart. It’s a huge debut for the 18-year-old Indonesian artist, and while the album itself is something of a disappointment, it’s nevertheless both an impressive achievement and a solid enough debut.
His signature monotonous, machine-gun flow rarely offers variation from his typical sound, and Amen ends up being a bit of a sleeper because of this. The writing and production are both extremely solid, but like Offset’s verse on “Attention,” the whole album seems to stagnate on a level of detached disinterest. Brian still has plenty of room to grow, however, and hopefully this album will serve as a foundation for him to build upon his art.
Seven Sekkonds of Silence by Spark Master Tape
Spark Master Tape is one of the strangest rap acts to emerge in a long while; he’s an anonymous artist who hides his identity behind masks and voice-pitching. He presents himself as being a gun-hoarding, drug-trafficking (and consuming) figure with a dark and troubled past, who holds derision for the rappers and technology of the present, and a belief in his own supremacy in the future. This presentation, combined with a series of catchphrases and obscure name-dropping, makes Spark something of a gimmick rapper (an accusation that has, perhaps rightfully, plagued him for his entire career), but there’s no denying his ability. Spark is an impressive rapper, spitting punchlines and worldly observations in rapid-fire raps formed from densely packed rhyme schemes. The production is always a strong point on his albums, mixing obscure samples with industrial drum patterns. While this album (specifically the second half) takes some unconvincing experimental directions, it’s nevertheless one of this year’s most fun and interesting projects to date.