To truly be a leader, you need to be prepared to live and die by your own decisions. Never one to struggle with a deficit of self-belief, Rich The Kid has continually refused to let his destiny be determined by anyone other than himself. Initially teased when he detailed its guest stars in late February, the rollout for the Queens-born, Georgia-based MC was in full swing with his stock showing no signs of depleting.

Then, from out of nowhere, the long-gestating Eternal Atake and its deluxe counterpart arrived and commandeered the audience’s attention, Courting the lion’s share of streams over the past fortnight, Lil Uzi’s cultural pull quite clear based on the effect that his project had on other album sales. In light of this, lesser artists may have rescheduled to ensure that their projects wouldn’t be overshadowed by Rich’s former foe’s near-mythical space exploration. However, harnessing the self-assurance of a business-savvy MC, Rich opted to dispense with fears of being eclipse and focused on his own affairs with Boss Man.

Between the Uzi-shaped diversion and the complacency that comes with getting accustomed to an artist’s presence, Rich The Kid’s latest doesn’t have the same momentous sense of occasion that his first two projects had prior to dropping. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t gems to be extracted on his new album and it’d be a disservice to let them fly under the radar. If anything, Boss Man is the sound of a rapper that’s getting acclimated to the longevity that he’s all but secured in this industry, both behind-the-scenes and as a purveyor of slick, commercially-attuned hip-hop.

Besides his own merits, Rich’s projects have been always been resplendent in two things. A who’s-who of guest stars and an enviable assortment of beats that’d suggest producers relinquish their hard drives and give him first dibs. Thankfully, it takes little more than 5 minutes to prove that framework is still rooted in place

Starting off tenderly before he lays out what separates the average man from a self-sufficient kingpin, Rich puts his best foot forward on “Far From You.” Emoting with every syllable, it’s an interesting opener considering it’s more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. Where an artist such as Thugger keeps adding abstract vocal inflections to his repertoire as the years tick by, Rich seems to be shedding some of the eccentricities in his delivery that made his verses pop on previous projects. Yet where he’s nullified some of his rougher edges, Rich’s ability to tailor his delivery to any beat rarely falters.

Switching up his flow as and when required, DaBaby returns the favour for Rich’s appearance on “Best Friend” with the hazy “Sick.” Bestowed with a relentlessly catchy beat and lines such as “I just left the doctor and I’m still sick,” don’t be surprised if it’s co-opted by TikTok while the world grapples with COVID-19. On the pulsating “Not Sorry,” Nicki Minaj’s appearance is the definition of short but sweet. This tends to be a recurring theme throughout the album, with many tracks landing within a fleeting runtime of 2 minutes or under.

For the most part, upholding his status as a hip-hop entrepreneur is the adhesive that glues the album together, rearing its head in the authoritative, Lil Tjay-featuring  “Depend On Me” before he discusses buying his grandma a ring that “cost a whole key” to reimburse her for court fees on the reflective “Ain’t No Doubts.” Elsewhere, he continues this theme on the slow burn of “No Loyalty,” acting as the benevolent don that looks after his kin and forsakes all others.

Although there are moments where he seems to be striving for compliance as opposed to breaking new ground, audiences are reminded of the vividness with which he can bring a theme to life on “Red” as he yelps “red cup, she got Henny, I got red stuff, first class on redeye, she pullin’ up.”

From peers to proteges, Rich’s aptitude for playing well with others comes in handy across Boss Man. Over an entrancing beat crafted by the megastar himself, the shared energy that Post Malone and Rich exude on “V12” would suggest that there’s plenty to be harvested from further studio sessions. About as acquainted as two MCs can get, Rich and Quavo tap into their usual delegation of labour as they discuss life’s trials and tribulations on “That’s Tuff” while hook-ups with NBA Youngboy on sure-fire smash “Racks On” and the previously released “Money Talk” prove that their rumoured collaborative project would be a goldmine of boisterous, cash-oriented hits. 

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Amid serenading the object of his desires on “You,” Rich sets composure entirely to one side on “Over With.” Built around thoughtful production that wouldn’t have been out of place on A Death Race For Love, Rich’s cries of being “addicted to your love, can’t get enough of it, if you leave me, I’ma need a first aid kit” displays a vulnerability that it’d be interesting to see him explore further on Boss Man’s forthcoming sequel.

Rather than concern himself with outward perceptions, Boss Man is the sound of a man that’s embracing the sturdy foothold that he’s fashioned in the modern game. Where’s he’s implored audiences that The World Is Yours across previous projects, Boss Man sees him depict the values and enviable lifestyle that drives him to keep his own personal and professional universe intact. Although there are moments that err towards familiarity, the intention of this project registers loud and clear. Surveying his self-made kingdom, Boss Man is a jubilant victory lap that sees him toying with new sounds and textures while sticking to the business plan that’s made his empire. Now, the stage is set for Rich to unveil the most personal and, probably, most important project to date.