A running theory in rap fan circles is that there are three main kinds of artists within the genre: Album artists, features artists, and singles artists. It’s a pretty self-explanatory system. Some rappers shine best when their work is consumed as a whole, with overarching concepts and few stand out, radio-friendly songs. Some are at their best on singles and their albums are typically collections of singles or potential singles which work most effectively consumed piecemeal, in isolation. Then there are features artists, who may not stand out much on their own songs, but when they appear on other artists’ works, they usually steal the show.
Nailing down where New York rapper Rich The Kid falls in this system is a hazy, borderline impossible task. Despite having one of the biggest singles of the past few years of music streaming in “Plug Walk,” he doesn’t seem especially good at putting out bangers that pack dance floors or take over the airwaves. He’s featured on one of Tyga’s indelibly fun comeback singles, “Girls Have Fun,” but he arguably gets out-rapped by Tyga and definitely has trouble staying on beat.
That would seem to leave “albums artist” as his default characterization, but taking his latest full-length project, The World Is Yours 2, as evidence, it’s hard to see how that could be the case either, when the voices that define the album come mostly from Rich’s guests and not himself. It’s good in the sense that it’s listenable, with some genuinely enjoyable, lightweight songs about flexing and trapping and having a lot of sex, but you could probably take him off and never notice the difference. The beats slap and the guests add a tremendous amount of value, but Rich gets outshone by both. You hate to see it.
One of the reasons he seems so dispensable is that his style is so undefined. He’s from New York, but he raps in a weird, faux-Southern accent that sounds derived from Young Thug’s own slippery, consonant-free delivery. Then, on other tracks, he sounds very much like he’s from LA, trading in his languid syllables and cottonmouth warbling for clipped, syncopated cadences that do their best to land on the downbeat. He sounds like he’s doing rap impressions, which is fine in an impressionist, but not in a rapper.
The effect is bewildering when he’s placed alongside the originators of his interchangeable styles. When Young Thug comes in on the trap-ish “Fall Threw,” he instantly and utterly overshadows Rich’s generic boasts with his outlandish ones, rhyming “I got the crockpot / I’m smokin’ like magma” to cap his short leadoff verse. Insult is added to injury when the original Young Thug apprentice, Gunna, comes in after him and shows how much cleaner the same flow can sound in the hands of an expert. The beat is a hypnotic banger provided by Wheezy, but it’s more a Thug and Gunna song than a Rich song, leaving him a guest on his own album.
That LA flow he duplicates doesn’t fare any better. On lead single “Splashin,” he trips and stumbles to catch the beat, but always seem too hurried or too lazy, never quite finding the pocket that best works with the bass-heavy, west coast production provided by Frank Dukes and TheLabCook. The same could be said of just about any track he tries to ride solo, from “4 Phones” to “Save That” to “Racks Out.” Even so, Rich’s inefficient delivery could be deemed almost charming if the subject matter — and the way he raps about it — weren’t so uncompelling. All these songs will likely disappear from rotation by summer, but until then, they’ll go up at the club or house party.