Can you think of any Asian artist that is by all means famous on the US music scene? There are already some proven artists in the US whose roots originate in Asia. There are also countless underground, obscure self-promoting Asian artists trying to make a name for themselves in their own right. However, The US music industry hasn’t been struck by an explosive hit by a Chinese rapper since 2004. When Jin released ‘Learn Chinese‘, he broke the first layer of a large barrier the US music industry held up against Asian artists. Jin proved that Asian artists can rock just as hard as US-born names. ‘Learn Chinese’ started to crack the racial barrier the US music scene has held against Asian artists. But whatever remained of that barrier was shattered by Rich Chigga.
[Rich Chigga, a.k.a. Brian Imanuel]
Chigga’s ‘Dat $tick‘ has obliterated whatever small remnant of anti-Asian prejudice the US music industry has bitterly held on to. The 18 year old made waves with his hit single, and convinced the masses that Asians CAN make banging music for US audiences. In addition, he did it without any help from any influential name or objective pro-Asian subject matter. Chigga simply did it the way he wanted to, and it paid off. It’s quite a rags to riches success story. Chigga was born Brian Immanuel, and grew up in the disadvantaged suburbs of West Jakarta to a lower-middle class, family of Chinese roots. He learned English through his very own love for Hip-Hop. Listening to artists like Tyler the Creator and Childish Gambino was his after-school English lesson. Chigga also had a knack for all things social media and internet, and knew the right pathway to viral success.
[Rich Chigga in his video for ‘Dat $tick’]
Chigga was a consistent Viner and understood how the internet worked, which yielded him indispensable knowledge necessary to become trending. Moreover, he was observant enough of the ever-changing form of hip-hop to know how to make a banging hit single. Chigga made it on his own when he released ‘Dat $tick’, whether incidentally or as part of a calculated plan. He bought a catchy beat he liked and rapped on it the way he wanted to. He never used his ethnicity as a means of gaining fame, he is by all means a self-made star.
[Rich Chigga performing at Miami’s ‘Rolling Loud’ festival in 2017]
Chigga even garnered the attention of Wu Tang veteran Ghostface Killah, who jumped onto the ‘Dat $tick’ remix. He released additional singles that have all garnered considerable critical acclaim, which so far are denying the notion that he’s a one hit wonder. Chigga has no tattoos, doesn’t wear snapbacks and isn’t overly-invested in streetwear brands. He doesn’t talk about owning a Gucci belt or Versace in his tracks. He doesn’t rely on a cool persona to boost his exposure or raise hype for himself. His ethnicity considerably alienates him from the US hip-hop scene, however he was cunning enough to use this to his advantage. Regardless of his appearance or overall presentation, the teenage rapper rose to stardom with a completely self-made song. Not only has he won the approval of many, he’s also been on the come-up ever since.
[Brian ‘Rich Chigga’ Immanuel is just an ordinary kid with an infectious sense of humor and an ear for music]
The majority of traditional record label executives might not be so hot on the prospect of signing Chigga. It’s safe to say that for them it’s a financial risk to invest money intro promoting a newly sprung up teenage rapper hailing from Indonesia. And this applies regardless of how talented he is. Large labels would rather play it safe and sign a traditional rapper than to hire real talent. Roc Nation, TDE, MMG, Shady Records and so on have an image to uphold which unfortunately would be soiled if they’d hire someone the likes of Chigga. This is perhaps the last bastion that remains from the prejudicial barrier the US music industry has firmly hid behind. But luckily this unfortunate fact hasn’t dampened the spirits of this young rapper in any way. He knows he’s different, and doesn’t subjectively rely on his Asian ethnicity for fame. It’s this fact that literally shatters the prejudicial barriers that the US music industry has held up against Asian artists for so long.
[Cover art for the single ‘Bankroll’, a track released under Diplo’s Mad Decent label, produced by Skrillex]
There are plenty of platforms that would proudly present and support his campaign as opposed to record company executives. In fact, Chigga’s been heavily partnered up a platform for years – 88 Rising. The company, or ‘movement’, owned by Japanese-Korean Bay Area native Sean Miyashiro, is an indispensable partner for Chigga. Chigga has managed to snag incredible guest appearances, produce hard-hitting music and maintain an ever-increasing exposure with 88Rising by his side. Platforms like 88Rising and the general atmosphere of the current internet have proven to be far more effective. If mogul record label executives called the shots in the past, they’ve been outright replaced by independent digital platforms today.