Ricch’s music feels like a corrective to so many problems with both the pop and rap mainstreams.
Roddy Ricch is starting to look like a pop star. He’s becoming one of those artists you just hear about; it’s not a question of if you check him out but when you check him out. His success is no wonder. He’s an excellent songwriter who’s mastered the form of the contemporary rap banger but also gives himself permission to fuck with it. He’s melodic but technically skilled enough to potentially appeal to fans of acts like Eminem who’d normally stay away from stuff like this. He has the same command of imagery as his friend and fellow Comptonite Kendrick Lamar, though his music’s much more frivolous and less dense.
But what makes him such a formidable presence is how confident he is. There’s not a single moment on his debut album Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial where we’re wondering who he is or if he knows who he is. There are no 2D dembow beats or Maluma features. There are no concessions to emo-rap aside from the title. When he sings of seeing UFOs in the sky on “Roll Dice,” we wonder at first if he hasn’t veered into Kid Cudi’s third-eye mysticism, but he quickly course-corrects with a winking aside: “I was high… I was high.” Ricch is self-aware in a way that can only come from total comfort in his own skin.
Please Excuse Me feels shorter than its 43 minutes. There’s only one interlude, the obligatory voicemail from a family member, and it’s actually pretty funny. The guests are purposefully chosen and have a lot of chemistry with Ricch, in part because he’s enough of a vocal chameleon that he can sound like any of them if he wanted to but mostly because a lot of them rip from Young Thug as generously as he does. There’s a nice arc from bangers like “The Box” to guitar jams like “Bacc Seat” to serious material like “War Baby,” where he describes the residual trauma of the poverty and violence he escaped.
We get the sense rap is a lifeline for Ricch and that he needed to make this one count. The best song here might be “Prayers to the Trap God,” which crams in a dizzying amount of detail about the circumstances he overcame: being raided by cops while watching cartoons, desperately trying to flush his drugs, facing the prospect of spending the prime of his life in prison. “My uncle looked the police in the eyes and got shot,” he spits. “Tell me how that make you feel.” It’s a fourth-wall break as jarring as Kendrick snarling “you hate me, don’t’cha” on “The Blacker the Berry.”
Ricch writes a lot about enjoying life as a rising star, but it’s invariably contrasted with an alternate universe where things didn’t go so well, and his determination to make the most of his life gives his music an inspirational aspect that might partially explain why he’s able to rub elbows with Lizzo on the charts. It’d be a stretch to call his music moral, but the importance he places on being alive and able to make music is refreshing in a rap landscape that too often celebrates hedonism without consequences and has begun to take on elements of the rock death cult.
If there’s an area in which he falls short, it’s originality. He really does sound like Young Thug, from the grannyish tremor in his voice to the way he spits out his consonants to the way he repeats words like a baby (“perky-perky!”) Even some of his lines are ripped directly from Thug, which is either homage of the by-product of listening to Beautiful Thugger Girls every day. Either way, he’s happy to admit the influence, which is a relief when the guys in Greta Van Fleet can walk around acting like they don’t listen to Led Zeppelin. And he brings plenty to the table Thugger doesn’t, not least the clarity with which he communicates his ideas.
Ricch’s music feels like a corrective to so many problems with both the pop and rap mainstreams. He eschews trendy nihilism for burning vitality. He’s sexier than most rappers, devoting “High Fashion” to the giving of pleasure, interrupting “Bacc Seat” to declare his sex symbol status. There are plenty of rappers doing bolder, more avant, and more futuristic things, but Ricch does what he does well, and with a vengeance. It’s so exciting to have a guy like this perched on the edge of stardom.