When 17-year-old Brian Imanuel from Jakarta, Indonesia pulled on a pink polo shirt and fastened a fanny pack around his waist, he had no idea how his life was about to change.
He’d originally been planning to dress in ultra-cool fashion that day, but changed his mind last minute. Coupled with the incredibly violent lyrics he was about to deliver, he thought the contrast of “white dad” attire would provide a necessary contrast.
For the career of his rap alter-ego Rich Chigga, it was perhaps the best decision he ever made.
‘Dat $tick’, the video he created that day, would become an international success when YouTube channel 88Rising, who dedicate themselves to celebrating global Asian culture, created a short clip in which they’d record rappers - including Ghostface Killah, Cam’ron, Desiigner, Tory Lanez, 21 Savage and Flatbush Zombies - reactions to the video.
The majority of the rappers involved were taken by surprise initially, but praised Brian’s skills as a rapper. Ghostface enthusiastically demands “Let me get on that!” delivering a verse for the remix which would be released a few months later.
Since then, Brian has made it out to the US where he played a handful of headline shows, delivered features for Skrillex and Diplo, surprised Post Malone with a Mariachi band and even sat down to be interviewed by Pharrell Williams on Beats 1.
We caught up with Brian to discuss the rise of Rich Chigga…
In your mind is Rich Chigga you or is it an alter ego?
I think it's just like a part of me, that's like somewhere in the back of my head but I just don't show it when I'm talking to people. So it's kind of nice to say things that you're not able to in real life, to say it on a song is really cool.
When you broke through with the ‘Dat $tick’ video, a lot of the commentary surrounding it regarded the way you were dressed, with the pink polo shirt and fanny pack. What made you choose to present yourself in that way?
It was just part of the concept. At first, I was going to dress all cool and stylish and all that. Last minute I was like, "Maybe because the song sounds so serious, maybe I should do something different with the video. Maybe I should make it kind of comedic almost, but at the same time it was cool as shit so."
I thought about the polo shirt and the fanny pack - that's like the classic like white dad look - and I'm like, "Damn. If I wear that it could either completely ruin it or make it really good." I thought about it for a while and then wrote a full concept behind it. So it turned out pretty good I think.
What was the first hip-hop that you started listening to?
I started listening to hip-hop in 2012 when my first American friend introduced me to it. I mean, I heard hip-hop around before but back then I only heard super old school stuff.
In 2012 I started listening to Drake, 2 Chainz, Kanye, Macklemore, Logic and a bunch of other stuff. But the first song that I tried rapping to was actually Macklemore, ‘Thrift Shop’ and that was when my English was really bad. Learning how to rap actually improved my pronunciation a lot back then. That’s also why I really like hip-hop too and I got super deep into it.