By Salvatore DiGioia
Rich The Kid has long been considering himself a boss. It’s a title that he technically earned by founding an independent record label (Rich Forever Entertainment) in 2016, then signing his routine collaborators (Jay Critch, Famous Dex) to the multi-legged enterprise. Yet, for years, it’s remained a presumptuous claim for the largely unknown rookie to make, its implications of strategy, security and leadership not yet fully represented by his career. Despite raking in revenue from tour stops and a Rich Forever mixtape trilogy, Rich The Kid has spent significant time scratching at hip-hop’s glass ceiling in an attempt to trade internet clout for less ambiguous stardom. While early work helped accustom fans to his notorious work ethic and unique version of anti-lyricism (both of which are heavily leaned on in the crafting of his persona), it mostly failed to garner attention beyond the buzzing rap blogosphere. Now, courtesy of a shiny contract with Interscope Records, Rich The Kid has fully arrived with a proper LP to back up his monstrous ambitions.
The World Is Yours boasts input from an array of A-list guests including Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar and more. With just four solo tracks, it risks appearing an easy cop out on its artist’s behalf, particularly since it’s his major-label debut. Yet, unbelievably, Rich The Kid manages to lure collaborators into his jumpy creative space and mark each song as wholly his own. Rather than rely on Quavo and Chris Brown for obvious hooks, he limits each to a verse; though he rewards Rick Ross with an in-character, key-driven beat, he adds anxious drums to make it his own; and Swae Lee, who’s newly re-branded himself as an R&B crooner, is assigned a choppy rap verse over whopping trap drums, forced to squeeze himself into the story. Only Khalid and Trippie Redd are awarded creative leads, the former providing a hook on drunken love ballad “Too Gone” while the latter’s cartoonish juvenility overpowers “Early Mornin’ Trappin.” Yet, even on these sure-fire hits, Rich The Kid feels totally prevalent. Never is his performance not principal to a song’s development.
When Rich The Kid raps, it’s usually impossible not to notice: His energetic deliveries and natural exaggerating of vowels ensure that his presence is known. He also stems from an anti-technical niche within hip-hop that — despite boasting major crossover successes such as Gucci Mane and Migos — can still be startling to many. With this in mind, it seems that at least one goal of The World Is Yours is to prove its headliner capable of taming his flow when necessary and, perhaps, even crafting tangible narratives. “Too Gone” forces him to sap up for producer WondaGurl and “Drippin’” — packed front-to-back with explicit sexual wordplay — has clearly-defined dance-floor intentions. Meanwhile, solo cut “Small Things” is a surprisingly cohesive, conceptual sequel to The Dream’s romantic classic “Throw It In The Bag.” On this glitzy cut, a rarely emphatic Rich The Kid assures his love-interest that the designer goods she seeks are only “small things.”
When asked about the frequency with which he collaborates with others, Rich The Kid routinely explains to interviewers that his reputation as “the hardest-working n*gga in Atlanta” inevitably encourages them to seek him out. In 2016, he elaborated on this to Forbes, saying that — on top of tour fees and streaming royalties — he makes “a lot of money” selling verses to “up-and-coming rappers.” Yet, when it comes to his own material, Rich The Kid only works with artists whom he shares a personal relationship with, a strict principle that, apparently, often means co-starring aside veteran superstars. In this vain, The World Is Yours features ten of Lil Wayne’s most action-packed bars in recent memory (“Tell the Boogeyman I’m the bigger man / Tell the trigger man, ‘Pull the trigger, man’”) as well as an iconic drop-in from Future (during which he pledges to go to rehab and offers addictive new soundbite: “Grrr- grrr- grrr!”). It also finds Rich The Kid spitting toe-to-toe with Offest, Quavo and — remarkably enough — Kendrick Lamar. Clearly, this script has long been in the making.
Ironically, Rich The Kid’s most strategic inclusion on The World Is Yours is a solo track titled “Dead Friends” on which he raps aggressively over a spooky DJ Mustard beat, sometimes almost sounding like a traditionalist. The song is built around its repeated jabs at competing new-wave pioneer Lil Uzi Vert (“All them dead friends…You a little man!”), with whom Rich The Kid has recently established an internet rivalry (and whose breakout single, “XO Tour Llif3,” notoriously brags: “All my friends are dead!”). Though the pair have exchanged a series of passive-aggressive shots over social media, “Dead Friends” is the first signal of either participant’s intent to evolve it further. Standing as the last song on Rich's debut album, it's also (likely) a clear-cut promotional effort — as many other twenty-first century diss tracks have been.
In the end, Rich The Kid still has some tangible improving to do if he hopes to turn his twitchy flexing into an actual headlining act. He relies too often on his newfound success as a lyrical anchor (“finally rich!”), an item that receives little context outside of the album’s intro (“I was broke, [now] got bands and accounts / First thing, taught my son how to count”) but will require thorough attention if he hopes to round out the narrative. Moreover, the collaborator shtick can only work for so long, as eventually, his ability to get A-list features will not be surprising in itself. For now though, The World Is Yours represents a stunning debut from a seemingly destine hip-hop superstar. He can evidently hold his own aside the industry’s biggest names. For this reason alone, Rich The Kid deserves the title “boss.”