INTERVIEW: WE SPEAK TO RICH BRIAN ON THE EVE OF HIS AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Words by Mia Besorio // Get tickets to Rich Brian’s Australian tour here
Rich Brian scaled to success within the time that Vine died and TikTok was born, and while most of his achievements can be tracked against technological milestones - he’s been looking offline for inspiration of late.
With his album Amen, he was only beginning to explore themes of identity. Now only a year later, he’s back with The Sailor, and this time he’s deep in his feels bag. The Sailor highlights the story of migrants who risk everything to explore uncharted territories. The release serves as a homage to their fearlessness, and is self-referential on his own journey abroad.
The Sailor is a coming of age for Rich Brian who now lives a life so polarising to the one he left behind in Indonesia. The juxtaposition of a farm back home, to the farmer’s market of Los Angeles, is a testament to his newfound privilege. Rich Brian is rediscovering his heritage as he watches himself through the eyes of the audience as he imparts angst, uncertainty, and realisation into his lyricism.
It’s not all sombre though - overall, Rich Brian seems content. He’s excited to return to Australia for the third time: a place he knows best for the Gold Coast, and as the home of the infamous Triple One.
Hey Brian! The last time we spoke, you didn’t know who Lee Lin Chin was. Do you know who she is yet?
Oh wait, who's this?
Lee Lin Chin. She’s Asian-Australian royalty!
I would love to check her out. Does she sing?
Well… not yet. Ask about her when you get here. So this will be your third tour here, and your last being for Falls Festival. How was that experience for you?
It was amazing! I went to the Gold Coast, which was the most memorable experience of my life. I had two days off, and then played a New Year show. Australia is a really beautiful place. Every time I book a show out there, I get really excited.
Did you meet anyone when you were out here that you fuck with?
I met up with a rap group called Triple One.
They're sick! Their manager, Kev, is one of the guys that started Filter. Hopefully, you can reconnect with Triple One when you're in Sydney.
That's crazy! I definitely remember them being funny. We partied together, and then I checked out their music. It was actually really dope. I was surprised, because of how funny they were.
It’s interesting that you defaulted to thinking that, because both you and Joji started your careers as funny guys too. I guess you’ve well and truly surpassed meme culture now, given you secured a RZA feature on The Sailor. How did that come to be?
We were in New York - which is where we worked on a lot of the album - in the studio and [my manager] Sean was already in talks with RZA about some other stuff. So we were all like, “Should we get RZA on the album?” Sean was like, “Yeah, why not?” So we meet with him, and he’s down. We find out that he was going to the studio that day, and we set up a jam session.
So RZA comes by with his managers, and his daughter. He pulls out his phone, and I can see in his notes that he’s written a heap of long paragraphs. It's great; he came prepared. And he starts just going. And then he gets into how Asian culture influenced him, and how Wu-Tang came together, and then at one point he just starts complimenting me. We all just look around the room, and look at each other like, “Yo, I can't believe this is fucking happening.” That was crazy. It was very inspiring to watch.
It’s cool that he acknowledged the influence that Asian culture has had on him, and on Wu-Tang. I think as you get older, you naturally begin to question your identity, and you want to learn more about your culture and heritage. When I heard ‘Kids’ I felt like you had removed your fanny pack and put your backpack on, like you suddenly had some real shit to say. I wasn’t about it at first, but then after a few listens, I started to connect with what you were saying because I’ve been through it too.
Absolutely. I think on this album, it's me catching onto a lot of Indonesia, and where I came from. I think that's a really important thing to do, and I haven't really touched on the topic as a whole before. I really wanted to do it in a cool, traditional way. I want people of all cultures to listen to it, and for them to feel like they are a part of something.
You're not a young artist anymore; you've been in this for a while. What constitutes youth will continue to get younger. Do you feel a responsibility to be a role model for the next generation?
Absolutely. I think it's really important to a lot of people. You're right, the youth are getting younger, and younger. I'm definitely not the perfect role model; I'm still growing up. I just want to make sure that people know that they can be great, they can do whatever they want, and that anything is possible.
You know what is crazy? It was only a year ago that we were talking about Trippie Redd and 6ix9ine beefing, and now 6ix9ine is locked up, and we’ve got Lil Nas X breaking world records. It's just like - damn, life moves fast.
Oh wow, true. It's wild!
With life moving at this pace, I’m wondering - are you afraid of your mortality or are you welcoming of it?
I have a really weird perspective on death. I'm not really scared of it, because who knows if anything is real, you know? If death was a thing, then I feel like I've already experienced it. I already know what that feels like right now, because I’ve already gone through it. It's like, there are a lot of alternate universes out there, and I feel like life just kind of goes on, and on. I don't know, it's definitely weird, but I'm not afraid of it.
I saw this meme quote that said - “I've buried a lot of my old personalities”. And it kind of touches on what you just said. Who knows? This could all just be a simulation, like ‘Second Life’. Speaking of - I’m a huge stan of The Office, and I know you are too. So before you go, I need to know: who's your favorite character?
My favorite character is definitely Creed, because he's not on-screen that much, but every time he is; he always has something interesting to say.