Rich The Kid's debut is an entertaining experience, but is it compelling enough to stand among the genre's essentials?
A debut album holds a certain gravitas. As the adage goes, an artist has their entire life to perfect it. The best debuts tend to feel personal, while those that falter often buckle under the weight of label expectation. Consider some of the notable introductions in hip-hop history, from 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, to DMX’ It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, to Kendrick Lamar’s (studio) debut good kid m.A.A.d city. While it’s important to judge each artist on the basis of their individual merit, there does exist an unspoken bar, to which the best debuts must be upheld.
In saunters Rich The Kid, soundtracked to the alien chimes of Lab Cook’s “Plug Walk.” Despite being closer in age to Jesse Pinkman than the formidable Heisenberg, Rich is nevertheless committed to the empire business. In that regard, his moniker is an appropriate one; the accumulation and enjoyment of riches are a recurring theme throughout The World Is Yours. Yet it’s not the wealth that commands respect, but rather the manners through which Rich amassed them. At twenty-five, Rich can proudly attest to owning his own masters. Few peers can boast the same.
In theory, Rich is a fascinating character amidst an already eclectic cast of modern day hip-hop players. With a class clown’s sense of humor and the colorful fashion sense of a true millennial rapper, some might be wondering how he managed to diversify himself from the pack. After all, few can boast such a stacked lineup of featured guests. Kendrick Lamar, Future, Lil Wayne, Offset, Takeoff, Rick Ross, and Chris Brown are but a few of the prominent supporting players. It’s almost as if they recognize something in Rich that’s not altogether obvious. At least, not on surface level.
Yet despite the cavalcade of A-list starpower, The World Is Yours still belongs to The Kid. The eponymous introduction finds our hero indulging in a state of the union, dubbing himself the antithesis to hip-hop’s ongoing woes. Lyrically, Rich isn’t exactly breaking any new ground. His subject matter largely centers around fiscal prowess and unprotected sex with “your bitch.” Yet the mere fact that he’s already earned CEO status adds authenticity to his claims, no matter how exuberant they may be. “I was broke, got bands and accounts,” he raps. “First thing, taught my son how to count.”
Naturally, many newcomers discovered Rich The Kid after “New Freezer,” his infectious collaboration with Kendrick Lamar. While Kendrick has largely been touted as one of the game’s most technically proficient, Rich holds his own alongside the formidable lyricist, sliding over the Ben Jayne instrumental with an aqueous drawl. To be honest, the genius of Kendrick’s verse took a minute to resonate. Now, it stands triumphant among the album’s best.
“No Question” is another early-game highlight, once again establishing Future’s influence on modern day trap music. For those appreciative of the melodically dark, 808-driven banger, “No Question” should serve as an adequate palette cleanser for the star-making “Plug Walk.” “I don't even understand how the fuck my plug talk,” raps Rich, from the confines of his space coupe. Cut from the same stylistic cloth, the back-to-back assault of tracks three and four are The World Is Yours arguable peak.
Things slow down a bit during the album’s middle phase; while the listening experience doesn’t entirely sag, it does find Rich exploring different styles with varying degrees of success. Let it be known - the mere fact he’s exploring his own versatility is commendable, and bodes well for his artistic longevity. Yet the Khalid assisted “Too Gone”, while occasionally boosted by a pleasant melody, feels like a missed opportunity for character development. All the best rappers have moments of weakness, but with Rich, the braggadocio is infinite; on what might have been the token “romantic” track, Rich opts to keep his status uniquely promiscuous.
Even “Made It” feels underdeveloped, as if Rich knew what he wanted to do, but failed to execute the implied concept. By now, we’re well aware that he’s made it; the past fifteen minutes have made that abundantly clear. It would have been nice to discover more about the man behind the persona, yet Rich seems content to hide behind his ostentatious wealth. And that’s okay, for the most part. Still, one has to wonder what makes him tick, other than Lil Uzi Vert.
On that note, album closer “Dead Friends” might be the closest we come to uncovering the truth. At surface level, the song operates as a Lil Uzi diss track, in which Rich clowns on his former friend and collaborator over, among other foibles, dubious business practices. Despite the crux of the barrage centering around Rich’s fiscal superiority, the mere fact that Rich made this track in the first place speaks volumes about his values. Clearly, the Kid was hurt by Uzi’s perceived betrayal, and felt compelled to close out his debut with his grievance.
In truth, that’s about all we get where development is concerned. Yet despite the lack of depth, The World Is Yours remains a respectable effort from front to back. Stellar production and enjoyable guest verses (Offset absolutely murders “Lost It) keep the affair entertaining, and Rich is charismatic enough to hold his own throughout the forty-six minute journey. Will you find yourself hitting rewind to catch the bars? Almost certainly not. Nor does it stack up among the genre’s essential debuts. Yet there’s undeniable merit to Rich’s introduction, and it will no doubt find extended value at parties, clubs, and cruising sessions.
Upon the positive reception of The World Is Yours, Rich posted a video in which he shed tears of joy. While the clip seemed to prove that the rapper is indeed capable of emotion, the authenticity was immediately questioned, as Rich seems impervious to any sign of weakness. To be fair, it’s hard not to sound emboldened over some of the year’s best production thus far. Yet deep down, you have to wonder, who is Rich The Kid really? After all, childhood is finite.